Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2015 Contenders, Point/Counterpoint Edition: Lord and Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty! by Mr. and Mrs. Bunny (Polly Horvath, translator)

Point: Tess Goldwasser, Rabbit Enthusiast and Children's Librarian, St. Mary's County Libary

In the thrilling sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire, Mrs. Bunny longs for a new hat, which, of course, means a new occupation (you’ll remember the Bunnies became detectives mainly for the fedoras). What does Mrs. Bunny want to be? Queen. Of course. So begins the laugh-after-laugh shenanigans of Lord and Lady Bunny: Almost Royalty.

In order to achieve Mrs. Bunny’s dream, our heroes must travel to England. They board a cruise ship, only to run into their dear friend Madeline! Madeline (we’ll remember) is the clever daughter of neo-hippies Flo and Mildred, who happen to also be traveling to England, as they’ve inherited a Sweet Shoppe, and Flo believes the universe wants him to spread a love of sugar as far and well as he can, after ingesting a fortuitous box of pop tarts.

And that’s not all! Along Mr. and Mrs. Bunny’s journey to almost royalty, there are appearances from most beloved characters from the first installment, like Mrs. Treaclebunny, and a certain expert in animal communication (and rare coins apparently), as well as JK Rowling, Polly Horvath herself, everybody’s favorite floss-appreciating Prince of Wales, and some extremely stuck up hedgehogs.

It all sounds ridiculous, but would we want anything less from a book about bunnies by Polly Horvath? Bottom line: the book is smart and sweet. It’s genuinely funny, and while some of it may go over kids’ heads, the Newbery basically defines “child appeal” as appealing to any child, not all, or even most, children, and I personally know a lot of savvy children who will love this book (probably many of the same who enjoyed Flora and Ulysses).

Now, I turn it over to Rachael, who will discuss the experience of listening to Bunnies on audio, (and cover any points I missed)

Counterpoint: Rachael Stein, Blog Slacker and Audiobook Listener

Devoted About to Mock readers may remember that I loved Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire!  They may also remember, however, that I called it an "Only Skink," by which I meant that it was... difficult to categorize. Difficult to evaluate. Difficult to shoehorn into any given set of awards criteria. I can muster up some sympathy for the casual reader who picks up Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, not knowing what she is in for. In for what she is. For what she is in? 

If you've returned for a second helping of Horvath's lunatic lapine world, however, you deserve exactly what you get. And what do you get, exactly? More! More bunnies, more hippies, and more royalty - plus vegetable candy, uppity hedgehogs, and a trip to jolly olde England. As Mrs. Bunny notes, travel is terribly educational: “And Mrs. Treaclebunny has promised to speak English from now on as well. In fact, she said when she goes to England, that's all she speaks anyway because the animals speak English there. She says anyone who has read children's books with animals in them set in England would know that. Is The Wind in the Willows written in Mole with a little Ratty thrown in? Is Winnie-the-Pooh written in Bear? No, it's English, because that's what the animals there speak. I didn't know that before. Travel is so broadening.”

Polly Horvath narrates the Lord and Lady Bunny audiobook herself, and I'm afraid she's a bit of an Only Skink in this area as well. As a new member of the ALSC Notable Children's Recordings committee, I'm learning to evaluate audiobooks according to performance and production, rather than plot and character. With my committee member hat on, I'm forced to concede that Horvath's narration is a little breathy and her character voices are inconsistent. Compared to someone like Katherine Kellgren, she's kind of amateurish. When I put on my avid listener hat, though, I must make the argument that none of those things matter in this case! No one but Horvath could adequately narrate these books, and in its own Skinkish way, her narration is pitch-perfect. As the people who heard me laughing out loud in the grocery store can attest - not to mention Sam, who had to put up with me walking around the house saying, "I'm, like, the Dalai Lama of sugar!"

So there. 

You're not going to see this one on the Newbery list, nor, most likely, on the Notable Recordings. Oh well. As Polly Horvath's fictional counterpart says, "Life is cruel. Carry chocolate bars." 

Published in February by Schwartz and Wade and Listening Library.  

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