January 03, 2014

Survival of the fluffiest

By Bob Shea
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Let me tell it like it is: Bob Shea makes some of the funniest picture books today. He’s written and illustrated a stack of smart, entertaining books that are irresistible in their energy, wit and heart. He’s best known for his Dinosaur vs. books, and his latest is just as winning.

Buddy is a monster, and he means business. When we meet him, he’s barking at everything in his path, all in the name of swagger. (“You’re not so hot, SUN! You better run, birds!”) When he meets some cute, fluffy bunnies, he doesn’t mince words, announcing he’ll devour them all.

When the bunnies declare (and despair) that they’re about to bake cupcakes—we see them huddled together in fear from the inside of Buddy’s mouth—he takes pause. Even monsters prefer cupcakes first and bunnies for dessert.

And so it goes. Each time Buddy plans to consume them, the bunnies suggest another chummy event, distracting him and drawing him even closer to them in friendship. “I promise to eat you tomorrow,” he repeatedly asserts, all the while having rowdy fun with his new pals.

When the bunnies inform Buddy why precisely he can’t eat them (I won’t give away Shea’s comic rimshot toward the book’s close, though the title is more than a hint), he believes he’s been tricked—only to have his friends tell him that wasn’t their intent at all: “We wouldn’t do that. We like you, Buddy.” Cue Buddy’s joyful epiphany, complete with a happy dance.

Shea gets lots of humor out of Buddy’s exaggerated facial expressions and the bunnies’ overly (and genuinely) sweet antics. He’s liberal in his use of colors here, and no shades are shrinking violets, by any means. Everything is bold and vibrant. The playful use of font type and colors also add to the fun and humor. Buddy pops right off the page, and if the book’s title is any indication, we’ll see more Buddy and the Bunnies tales in the future.

It’s a story to sink your teeth into. Just have your cupcakes first.

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.

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