Thursday, October 11, 2012

2013 Second Takes: Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire!, by Polly Horvath

It's really, really hard to describe Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! It exists in a nebulous space between Watership Down and MAD Magazine, and if that doesn't sound like a place that's even possible, I probably would have agreed with you before reading it. This is true even though Rachael's initial review of the book gave me as much of a heads-up as it was possible to provide.

And you know what? It's amazing.

Certainly, in terms of the Newbery criteria, Mrs. and Mrs. Bunny truly excels in its characters. From its questionably competent title characters, to the insufferable Mrs. Treaclebunny, to the perennially exasperated Madeline, each personage who appears in the story is impossible to forget. It's similarly exceptional in setting and style.

If you wanted to criticize the book, the place to go might be to the development of plot critereon. Yes, the book has a plot, but it helps not to think too hard about the plausibility of any given event. However, plausibility isn't the point of the book, and it would require a superlative resistance to Horvath's manic charm in order to complain too loudly on that point.

Mrs. and Mrs. Bunny is a weird, weird book, and it might be one that's not all that easy to build consensus around, especially given how notoriously hard it is to generate agreement on humor. But at the same time, it has some of the same magic that's made novels such as The Phantom Tollbooth and Sideways Stories from Wayside School lasting classics. I need to go through the rest of our semifinal list to see exactly where Mr. and Mrs. Bunny places in my final list, but it's certainly a strong and worthy contender, and a book that I'll probably buy for my daughter for Christmas.

If you have any other thoughts, please feel free to share them in the comments!


  1. This book had me at "by Mrs. Bunny, translated from the rabbit" - I agree that humor can be a very fickle thing, but I just loved loved loved this book. Another very funny and very quirky one this year is Foley's Remarkable, but I think Mr. and Mrs. Bunny have that one beat both on humor and general literary qualities like characterization and plotting.
    - Mark

  2. I liked Remarkable but loved Mr & Mrs Bunny, and I think part of the reason was that I could think of several other books that were very similar to Remarkable (which I think I talked about in my review of it, what feels like an eternity ago now ;), but Mr & Mrs Bunny is an entity unto itself.

  3. Yeah, this book is definitely my kind of humor, but therein lies the rub... or, as you said, "it might be one that's not all that easy to build consensus around, especially given how notoriously hard it is to generate agreement on humor." Senses of humor differ, and on my library's Mock Newbery wiki this book is getting ripped a new one by lots of folks who just "don't get it." But I would certainly support this one!