Authors: Deborah and James Howe
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Aladdin Paperbacks, 1979
Where I got it: I got this one from Barnes & Noble, originally to reread for a vampire paper I wrote in college (I've mentioned it here before).
I know you're all dying to know my history with this book, so I'll give you a quick summary. I read this for the first time way long ago, I don't even remember when, and read some of its sequels. I then used it in a paper I wrote about vampires and children's/young adult literature in my junior year of college, thus reacquainting me with the lovable vegetable sucker. Today? I needed a beloved book from childhood that was super short because I had to read it in a morning in order to get this post up. Hooray for Bunnicula and less than 100 pages!
This is the peculiar story of a dog, a cat, and a newcomer with extremely strange eating habits. Of course, I am talking about Harold, Chester and little Bunnicula, the suspected vampire bunny.
Harold tells this story to us from his own perspective, as true as he can remember all the details. He doesn't mind the newcomer, but Chester, being a remarkably well-read cat with a highly active imagination, begins to suspect what Bunnicula could be almost from the moment he is brought home by their family (the Monroes) after they find him in a movie theater (showing Dracula). What else could explain the bunny sleeping through the daylight and the drained, white vegetables all over the kitchen? Chester is dead set on proving to Harold and his family that Bunnicula is, indeed, a creature of the night. His attempts, taken straight out of vampire lore (garlic is his first idea), get Chester into some fine messes, as well as completely failing to accomplish anything. In the meantime, Harold becomes quite fond of Bunnicula. The dog eventually decides he must protect his new friend from his old one.
I honestly love all of the animal characters in this book. Harold describes himself as "smart—but just not the scholarly type" (39-40). This is pretty perfect. Harold is quite intelligent and dignified—he is able to translate the "obscure dialect of the Carpathian Mountain region" (9) in which the note found along with Bunnicula is written, but he has to ask Chester what a parrot is. He is the lovable, dignified and kind-hearted one, honest in his descriptions and looking out for everyone's best interests. Chester, on the other hand, consumes himself with proving his theory, which he formed through his extensive reading. How often in your reading travels do you find a cat who is also a bookworm? I love that.
Bunnicula is also adorable. It's impossible not to love him. Yeah, he might be a veggie-sucker and can creepily get out of his cage without opening any doors, but come on. COME ON. He's a bunny! With a twitchy nose! And he is nothing but gentle and considerate to his new family, even if he is a little boring to play with (according to Harold). Plus, the illustrations! Go take another look at the cover and tell me you don't just want to hold him.
This book is really funny, too. Stake ≠ steak, Chester. Harold's narration also provides a lot of humor, since he tells it from the perspective of a dog—he often mentions his love of food (especially chocolate cupcakes) and his complete incomprehension of the way cats and humans go about their business. Plus, Chester and his therapy at the end is priceless.
As far as actual analysis goes, I really love the element of the uncanny here. We never really find out if Bunnicula is actually what Chester and Harold suspect he is (though one could probably assume). Is it just Chester's completely overactive imagination? Or is there more to this little guy that the Monroes don't see?
This is definitely a great read-aloud or gift for kids. It's short, funny, unique, and just plain fun. Plus there are six more books after this one. Hooray!