My Dead Bunny, written by Sigi Cohen, illustrated by James Foley (Walker Books),
ISBN: 978 1 922179 59 3
I was privileged enough to be treated to a reading of this book before it was released. It was recited to us over a literary event breakfast, the illustrator, James Foley, showing us the illustrations on pieces of paper, he didn't have a copy of the book yet. Occasionally these very special moments occur, when you are introduced to a brand new story in the presence of one of it's creators.... and a room full of children, it's intended audience. The reaction was amazing.
As the story suggests, this is not a pretty tale of fluffy bunnies, loving cuddles or even a sad tale of comforted grief over the loss of a beloved pet. As the cover indicates, this is a book that evokes 1950's horror movie terror, for ten year olds (or perhaps younger, depending on their ability to stomach worms and zombies and bad smells!).
Cohen takes us on a woeful tale of tragedy, bought to life (& even death) by Foley's strong and graphic style illustrations. Foley's use of a limited palette, a comic style of line work and pops of zombie green and wormy pink, carries us through this page turning book of rhythmic and rhyming text. It is like watching the still frames of a movie.
It follows the story Brad, a pet bunny from life, electrocution and zombie death. How he haunts his former owners after being exhumed by his child owner out of curiosity. How will they react to this monstrosity, this worm eaten mess of a pet? How do they get rid of him and will Billy's dog, Roxanne, need to be exhumed to help? I'll let you find that out.
And how did the audience react? Well, the adults loved it. We laughed and gasped and wanted to order our copies immediately. It was refreshing to know that books like these are still being published. The kids, well that was interesting. This audience gasped in horror, that poor bunny, dead. his owner had to bury it, it was very sad. Then it got gross, it involved worms and rotting flesh and insane children. Some of them were beside themselves, others didn't know what to do or where to look, were they allowed to enjoy this book? Well, the adults were so why not?. I took the pleasure of looking at their faces as the story was read: horror, disgust, wide eyes, smirks and laughter, but most of all explanations of 'disgusting', and 'eew', and 'oh no!'
What more could you want from a story? It is to die for, well, if you are a rabbit.
Anyway, I ordered my copy, made the bookseller read it before putting it in my bag and got them to watch the trailer (I've popped a link below for you to enjoy). Best not to read over your breakfast, but then, if you have a strong stomach, why not?
(Reviewers note/confession: As a reviewer I need to be impartial and honest about the books I present to my readers. In the Australian Children's and YA publishing industry, most creators know each other and sometimes we know each other quite well. Often we review books created by our friends and peers (this is hard to avoid) and I endeavour to maintain a professional approach to this task. My opinions of this book and others I review are not because of friendships but from a genuine response to great literature for children.)
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