written by Bob Hartman
illustrated by David Clark

Bob Hartman's Grumblebunny
illustrated by David Clark

Book review by Monica Friedman

Ages 4-8

One Angry, Suspicious Rabbit; Three Sweet, Fluffy Bunnies; and Big, Bad Wolf

This is not your typical story about sweet and fluffy bunnies.

For one thing, in this story, the sweeter the rabbit, the goofier and less tuned in to reality. The “three sweetest rabbits on Misty Mountain Meadow—Cuddlemop, Sweetsnuffle, and Pretty” face the world with a wide-eyed optimism and do their best the counter the complaints of their angry, pessimistic cousin, Grumblebunny.

While Grumblebunny wants to sleep in, Cuddlemop, Sweetsnuffle, and Pretty drag him off to the Tall Tree Forest en route to visit their friends the Beavers.

Engaged with the beauty of the forest, the sweet bunnies completely fail to notice what the grouchy bunny cannot ignore: the footprints of Bad Wolf Peter the Rabbit Eater.

But Grumblebunny’s warning comes too late. Before they can take action, the rabbits find themselves stuffed in a snack sack, being hauled off to the wolf’s Very Dark Cave.

The illustrations are humorously overexaggerated: Grumblebunny is comically angry, the sweet bunnies are ridiculously happy, and the wolf’s fearsome attributes are so caricaturized as to turn him into an object of mockery.

Even more humor is evidenced in the sweet bunnies’ insane glass-half-full worldview. Stuffed into a sack, they can only comment on how sturdy the bag is. Dumped into a cooking pot, they delight in the warm, steamy water. When Grumblebunny growls, “This is not a bath! WE’VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!” the others chastise him: “Can’t you say anything nice about anyone?”

Fortunately for all the bunnies, Grumblebunny’s sour disposition is reflected in his physical manifestation. His presence makes the soup go sour.

While the wolf chokes on the bad broth, Grumblebunny’s survival instinct takes over. Silencing his cousins, he explains that they are “the four grumbliest rabbits” in the vicinity and “any soup you make from us is bound to be horrible.” Then, to keep the others from contradicting him, he whispers that it’s a game, and encourages them to play along.

Pleased that their cousin is finally interested in any game, the others insult, berate, and otherwise grouse at the wolf until he decides it’s in his best interest to let them go.

Have the bunnies learned their lesson? Apparently not. The world’s a playground to them, and this game with Bad Wolf Peter the Rabbit Eater, is, they conclude, extremely exciting. So exciting, in fact, that Pretty, who is clearly the goofiest of the trio, suggests they go play with the wolf again tomorrow.

Grumblebunny is an excellent read aloud story, particularly for those who like to do voices for their characters. The dialog is over-the-top hysterical, as are the personalities of all the characters. Kids respond to the gloomy outlook of Grumblebunny as well as the overt silliness of the happy rabbits who are too innocent to understand that they are about to be eaten alive. There is a message about stranger danger that children can understand without being hit over the head with it. In addition, there’s another message, that we can’t always be nice. Every once in a while, it seems, a bad attitude can save us, and there is a place, after all, for the doomsayers of the world. Some things are worth complaining about, and in a forest of big, bad wolves, embracing everyone you meet simply isn’t a smart policy.

Read more of Monica's reviews.

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