With the advent of April come rain showers, longer days, hyacinth and tulips, baseball games, chocolate Easter eggs, marshmallow Peeps, baby chickens and children’s books about bunnies. Lots and lots of books about bunnies. Listed below are a few titles featuring rabbits … and a few rabbit wannabes.
“Operation Bunny” • This is the first in the wickedly clever new Wings & Co. series for ages 7-11 by Sally Gardner. In this story, we’re introduced to Emily Vole, who (with the help of her neighbor’s talking, human-size cat) becomes a girl detective specializing in cases involving magic. Among other things, Emily must deal with a cruel credit card-wielding adoptive mother, an even crueler witch who loathes fairies, a set of keys that comes to life and passengers on a train who’ve all been turned into (you guessed it) rabbits. Pink rabbits. I thoroughly enjoyed the fractured-fairy-tale tone of this droll little book.
“Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire!” • Polly Horvath, an author known for her quirky sensibility, also has a new series out featuring a pair of intrepid rabbits. Now empty-nesters, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny are in search of adventure. In the first book — “Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire!” — the couple are engaged by a sensible young human named Madeline to locate her hippie parents who’ve gone missing. What follows is a string of outlandish adventures that may well appeal to elementary-school readers who enjoy Roald Dahl.
“Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty!” • In their next outing — “Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty!” — the couple hang up their fedoras and try their paws at becoming king and queen, which takes them across the pond and straight to jolly old England, where they are reunited with their human friend Madeline. Once again, Madeline and the Bunnys find themselves in the middle of one hare-brained caper after another. Like its predecessor, this middle-grade novel is a pleasantly silly and good-natured romp.
“Emmaline and the Bunny” • “Emmaline and the Bunny” by Katherine Hannigan (author of Ida B) is a story about an untidy girl named Emmaline who lives in a tidy town called Neatasapin, whose mayor has banned wild animals within the city limits. Why? Because animals are messy. The problem is that Emmaline loves rabbits and wants one for her very own. How she realizes her wish makes up the heart of this gentle story. (Note: Although “Emmaline” is a chapter book targeted for elementary-school-age children, Hannigan’s use of language is inventive and exuberant, which might prove frustrating for some readers. Parents may wish to read this one aloud with younger children.)
“Peek-A-Boo Bunny” • Newer picture books include “Peek-A-Boo Bunny” by Holly Surplice. With its rhyming text and “surprising” ending, this is a nice choice for very young children who will enjoy spotting for themselves what Bunny misses because he’s in too big a hurry. The mixed-media illustrations are especially attractive.
“The Easter Egg” • This book, written and illustrated by Jan Brett, tells the story of the rabbit Hoppi, who winds up taking care of a baby robin that emerges from a beautiful blue egg. Fans of Jan Brett will enjoy poring over the detailed spring-inspired borders that tell a story within a story.
“Here Comes the Easter Cat” • Cats also make an appearance in this year’s lineup of new Easter picture books, because (as everyone knows) it’s hard to keep a good cat down. The first of these is called “Here Comes the Easter Cat” by Deborah Underwood. In this story, Cat is grumpy. Why? Because people love the Easter Bunny more than they love him, which is why Cat decides to beat the egg-toting rabbit at his own game. Will he succeed?
“Pete the Cat: Big Easter Adventure” • Pete the Cat pinch-hits for an MIA Easter Bunny in “Pete the Cat: Big Easter Adventure.” With stickers and Easter cards included, this is more of an activity book than a traditional picture book. As such, it might make a welcome addition in a young person’s Easter basket.
“The Velveteen Rabbit” • And finally you can’t go wrong with classics like “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams, which tells the story of a toy bunny who wonders what it means to be “real.” Another toy, the old skin horse, explains that “it’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” This book, first published in 1921, still resonates with readers and should be required reading for all children and their parents.
“The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes” • This book by Du Bose Heyward, first published in 1939, has a distinctly old-fashioned feel. Today’s picture books are leaner and more visual. But this story about a mother rabbit who finally realizes her dream of delivering Easter eggs to children all over the world still has a charm of its own.
“I Am a Bunny” • And, finally, who can forget Richard Scarry’s lovely little picture book, first published in 1963, about a rabbit who cheerfully celebrates all four seasons. “I am a bunny,” it begins. “My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.”