Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bunnicula (Deborah and James Howe)

(The Bunnicula and Friends series, Book 1)
Deborah and James Howe
Avon Camelot
Fiction, YA Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Shaggy mutt Harold and his friend, the well-read (if over-imaginative and excitable) tabby Chester, live the good life with their human family, the Mortons... until the night a stranger comes home from the movies with them. At a showing of Dracula, the Morton boy Toby found a small black and white bunny in a shoebox full of dirt, apparently abandoned, with an indecipherable note around its neck - a note that, thanks to Russian wolfhound ancestry, Harold recognizes as an obscure dialect from Transylvania. As odd as that is, even more peculiar things soon start happening in the household, causing Chester to suspect that the newcomer is no innocent little rabbit, but a full-blown vampire.

REVIEW: On one level, it's easy to see why this is a childhood classic. Though there's an overall silly air to both the concept and the characters, particularly in Chester's overreactions and attempts to protect the Mortons and Harold from the doom in the bunny cage, there's just enough of a creepy vibe in its Dracula-inspired story and imagery to give youngsters a bit of a chill - not much, but just a touch. On the other hand, it's showing its age around the edges, and not just when one Morton boy spends an evening listening to records. The narrative (written by the dog Harold) and the dialog get a little too ridiculous at times. It's also hard, especially as an adult reader, to reconcile several inconsistencies. The Mortons are supposed to be a smart family, with a professor father and lawyer mother and children willing to use a dictionary to tackle classics like Treasure Island, but they're remarkably stupid about pet ownership. Harold's favorite treat is chocolate, which he's fed quite often and in considerable quantities. Chocolate's cumulative toxic effects on canines has been known for some time, at least as far back as this book dates, and feeding it to pets is not something a children's book really needs to push. The Mortons' treatment of Chester also shows a distinct lack of knowledge about cats, and they're a bit clueless about rabbit care as well. (But, then, the ostensibly intelligent parents took an eight-year-old child to a night showing of Dracula... maybe they're not supposed to be as bright as narrator Harold thinks.) Ultimately, I wound up with a three-and-a-half star rating. While the premise is great and the story generally fun, I just found a few too many problems to completely enjoy it.
(And, yes, I'd intended to review this one at Halloween, but the book was hiding from me; Easter seemed the next most appropriate holiday.)

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