Books about bunnies are sweet, right? Not one that’s created by the imaginative team of Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales), Mac Barnett (Extra Yarn) and illustrator Matthew Myers (Clink). Their irreverent picture book, originally titled Birthday Bunny, starts out harmlessly enough with an inscription from Gran Gran to Alex, wishing her “little birthday bunny” a special day. But in this testament to daydreaming kids everywhere, Alex has another story to tell.
The boy scratches through the printed type of grandma’s gift book and fills in his own words, turning Birthday Bunny into Battle Bunny! With his super birthday powers, Battle Bunny will put his Evil Plan into action. Where once an adorable cotton-tailed bunny was hopping through the forest, now an eye-patch-wearing bunny with a saw in hand—thanks to Alex’s improvised pencil sketches—makes his way, chopping through the trees. And instead of meeting his woodland friends, Badger, Squirrel, Bear and Turtle, he battles the president’s special forces: El Tejon, the great wrestler, Sgt. Squirrel, Shaolin Bear and Ninja Turtle.
The animals are not the only characters fighting to determine the world’s fate, however. Alex draws himself into the story, working alongside the president to help stop Battle Bunny. As Alex’s imagination goes into full force, his edits and drawings become bigger and bolder. When the defeated woodland animals gather for Bunny’s birthday . . . err, world domination, Alex remembers that he has special birthday powers, too. Celebrating a birthday or saving the world—both give reasons to cheer.
After cheering, readers will want to reread this clever retelling to savor the meticulous attention given to both text and illustration, from menacing eyebrows to megatron bombs. Parents, on the other hand, will rethink keeping any art supplies near beloved books.