MR. AND MRS. BUNNY—DETECTIVES EXTRAORDINAIRE! By Mrs. Bunny, Translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012
I love this book! It’s a family read-aloud. Before you object that this would never take place in your family of different ages and stages (“What? You want us to read together a book about rabbits?”), picture yourselves crammed into a stuffy motel room during a rainstorm at the beach. A desperate situation requires desperate measures. Try it. Read the first chapter or two aloud to your family, and see what happens. I’m writing as fast as I can to nominate this hilarious mystery for your games and book bag.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny find middle schooler Madeline sitting glumly in the middle of the road pondering her next move in order to find her missing parents. What luck! Mr. and Mrs. Bunny (“for so they are called,” Mr. Bunny says, often) have just decided to become detectives. A deal is struck and off they go. It’s during this exchange that Madeline realizes she is speaking Rabbit. This comes in handy as you might imagine.
Madeline’s hippie parents who want to be called Flo and Mildred instead of Mom and Dad have been kidnapped by foxes, led by the cruel and chilling titan of industry, the Grand Poobah. The Grand Poobah and fellow foxes learned about humans by studying TV sitcoms. They speak English because they think humans are too stupid to learn how to speak Fox. After all, humans have not figured out who the owners of Fox Television really are.
The foxes want a code cracked and so does everyone else. The plot depends upon it. The most likely code cracker is Madeline’s loopy Uncle Runyan, but he slips into a coma on purpose because he says this always helps plots on TV.
Meanwhile, nurturing Mrs. Bunny thinks all human children are orphans because in the children’s books she reads, the parents have died. She doesn’t come right out and say this, but the reader will sense that Mrs. Bunny would adopt Madeline if she could. Problem: Madeline doesn’t fit inside their lovely hutch with light blue shutters and a light blue door. Even so, Mrs. Bunny finds that advising a young teen is not quite the same as raising rabbit children.
Parents will laugh out loud at the human interactions between Mr. and Mrs. Bunny. (Has someone bugged our kitchens and listened in on us?) Paragraph after paragraph has a subtle underlying meaning for someone. Can you imagine what message this sends to children when they see their parents enjoying a book that belongs to kids? Reading is more than fundamental. Reading is fun.Obviously, it takes a talented writer to master the art of translating from the Rabbit. Polly Horvath, has done this well. She’s already a National Book Award winner (The Canning Season), and her book Everything On a Waffle, won a Newbery Honor. Illustrator Sophie Blackall, is no stranger to honors, either, having illustrated the Golden Kite winner, The Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan. Surely, she speaks Rabbit body language (along with Fox, Marmot, and English.) Marmot? You’ll have to read Mrs. Bunny’s account. Be glad Polly Horvath made this book available to the rest of us.
Oh—and you don’t have to wait for a rainy day at the beach. Read this rib-tickling story on your own. Family members and co-workers will hear you laughing out loud. Of course, they’ll ask why. Before you know it, Mrs. Bunny’s debut novel will be a best seller.