Appetizer: Howard the dog and Chester the cat are surprised when their family brings home an unexpected creature from the Dracula movie they had attended: A rabbit. The family quickly names their new member Bunnicula, and as the humans--eight-year-old Toby and ten-year-old Pete among them, favor the rabbit, Chester begins to suspect there's more to the small bunny than anyone imagines. Chester sets about convincing Harold that Bunnicula, who sleeps through the day and escapes his cage at night to suck the juice from vegetables, may be a VAMPIRE!!!!!!!!
So, months and months and months ago, my friend Catherine said, "You should review Bunnicula."
And I was all. "Good idea! I will do that!"
And the months passed.
The only reason I got off my bum-bum to review Bunnicula now is because my students chose to read it as their final group read for the quarter.
Let me tell you, it was strange picking this book up. I remembered that I absolutely loved it when I read it in the fourth or fifth grade. And I remembered the general idea of a bunny joining the Monroe family and Chester the cat working tirelessly to prove Bunnicula was a vampire bunny.
But when I picked the book up as an adult, I was surprised by the voice of Harold, the family dog and narrator. He's so....academic?...high-brow?...Smart? Chester as well. It surprised me and entertained me. In this book, it's the humans who are the slow ones.
And Bunnicula? He's silent. I mean, really? Why doesn't that bunny speak?
I once took a folklore class in which the teacher shared a tale about a woman who did not speak and so the objects and people around her starting creating stories about her. That's very much what happens to Bunnicula.
Bunnicula creates a lot of excellent humorous images. I particularly like when Chester attempts to "steak" Bunnicula by using his paws to pound a slab of meat against the sleeping bunny. But the best part is, with all the humor, I have yet to meet a child who thinks this book is scary. Is there anyone out there who will admit to at some point finding the thought of a vampy bunny scary?
Since the book is referenced, a teacher could also try to create some interest in Treasure Island. Another direction would be to introduce the students to the rest of the Bunnicula series or other vampire stories.
"I shall never forget the first time I laid these now tired old eyes on our visitor. I had been left home by the family with the admonition to take care of the house until they returned. That's something they always say to me when they go out: "Take care of the house, Harold. You're the watchdog." I think it's their way of making up for not taking me with them" (p. 3).
"I joined the family and serious thinking began. We all peered into the box. It was the first time I had really seen him. So, this is a rabbit, I thought. He sort of looks like Chester, only he's got longer ears and a shorter tail. And a motor in his nose" (p. 14).
"Let's not have any more arguments. We'll compromise. He's a bunny and we found him at a Dracula movie, so we'll call him Bunny-cula. Bunnicula! That should make everybody happy, including me" (p. 15).
"There in the moonlight, as the music filtered through the air, sat the bunny, his eyes intense and staring, an unearthly aura about them.
"Now this is the part you won't believe," Chester said to me, "but as I watched, his lips parted in a hideous smile, and where a rabbit's buck teeth should have been, two little pointed fangs glistened" (p. 23).
"Now tell me, Harold, have you noticed anything funny about that rabbit?"
"No," I said, "but I've certainly noticed a lot of funny things about you recently."
"Think about it. That rabbit sleeps all day."
"So do I. So do you."
"Furthermore, he's got funny little sharp teeth."
"So do I. So do you."
"Furthermore, he gets in and out of his cage by himself. What kind of rabbit can do that?"
"A smart one," I said" (p.45).
To Go with the Meal:
At heart this is a story about sibling rivalry (and vampire bunnies! AND remembering to eat your veggies!). A teacher could use this book to discuss the animosities that can emerge when new children are introduced to a class, a group of friends or a family. Topics under this heading would include not to jump to conclusions, keeping in mind that although a new sibling often gets an unfair amount of attention, that doesn't mean the parents love the rest of the children any less, etc.
Having said that though, this book is probably best as a fun read.
But if a teacher is desperate for activities to go with the book, he or she could discuss (age appropriate) folklore about vampires, the behaviors of various types of pets and how to care for them. A creative route would be to have students imagine the conversations their own pets or favorite animal might have.
Tasty Rating: !!!!