As one might expect from anything written by Jon Scieszka, this is not your typical picture book. In “Battle Bunny,” he and co-author Mac Barnett have taken an ostensibly sweet picture book about a bunny whose friends seem to have forgotten his birthday (but they are secretly planning a surprise party), and changed it into a story about an evil bunny with superpowers (because it’s his birthday) who plans to take over the world. Luckily for the world, a human named Alex also has superpowers (because it’s also his birthday), and he plans to defeat the evil Battle Bunny.
So there are really two picture books in one here. There is the original picture book with lovely vintage-looking illustrations in pleasantly painted pastels about Birthday Bunny and his friends. Then, there is the heavily edited and erased book that is “Battle Bunny.”
The reader first meets the third “co-author,” Alex, on the title page. The book was a birthday present from “Gran Gran,” and her inscription reads, ” Happy Birthday, Alexander! To my little birthday bunny on his special day. Love, Gran Gran”
It seems that Gran Gran needs to spend more time with her grandson. She appears not to understand his taste in children’s literature. Alex’s modifications to the book are hilarious, if fairly violent. This is not a picture book for pre-schoolers.
Rather, this one is for children old enough to understand the clever use of editing and how the story, and the illustrations, were changed to make the book a completely different story.
One of the reasons this book is for older readers (in my opinion) is that beginning readers will find it difficult to decipher the words that consist of some original letters with others crossed out and letters inserted above the words. It’s done beautifully, but at times it’s difficult to see the original “p” in the original word “presents” while reading the “owers” over the mostly crossed-out word. (So “presents” becomes “powers.”)
This is not a book that will be read quickly.
The editing to the illustrations is just as brilliant. Over the color illustrations, in dark pencil, are skulls and crossbones, dead trees, weapons, additional cartoon frames inserted, and a scar and a patch over one of Battle Bunny’s eyes.
Alex’s “editing” even extends to the publication information page, wherein after the credit for book design to Dan Potash, Alex draws and labels a “pot of ash.”
Teacher alert: this book and its editing would be fabulous to show students from second grade through fifth grade. They will all get a kick out of the story (especially the boys), but better yet, they will see how any kind of writing can be changed for the better without the need to erase everything. Many students get discouraged and want to erase everything they’ve written because it doesn’t make sense or there are a few errors. If “Battle Bunny” can show them that crossing out words, and inserting words or even sentences, is okay, then they’ve learned an important lesson.
So yes, by all means get “Battle Bunny” for its clever humor. But also get it as a teaching tool to teach that important lesson: editing is not just acceptable, it’s necessary.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.
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