It is fascinating how, in this day and age, with our being so immersed in print, the subtle use of a font can trigger such a visceral reaction. I pulled BATTLE BUNNY out of the mailing envelope, took one look at the cover, saw the authors'/illustrator's names centered near the bottom, written in a bold Times New Roman white text over the cover illustration colors, and my first impulse was that this must be a ridiculously insipid piece of crap.
But I noted that one of the authors listed is Jon Scieszka, so I stuck it in the pile to check out later.
Not two hours go by before I receive a pair of emails from Sharon, my old library school friend, who is SO not prone to exclamation points, but who was full of them in making sure I immediately read BATTLE BUNNY. She concluded that,
"now I know what to do with old weeded picture books, sharpies and 4th graders!"
BATTLE BUNNY could arguably be the most brilliant piece of work that Scieszka has ever been part of, and it is certainly my favorite since back in the days with Cowboy and Octopus and that hammer. It is a subversive work that will undoubtedly persuade a bunch of those gross motor middle grade kids that writing is hella cool.
What we have here IS, in fact, a ridiculously insipid piece of crap. It is the lame book -- Birthday Bunny -- that Gran Gran has given Alexander for his birthday. We know this because of the penned, cursive in-a-heart inscription on the half title page.
But what "Alex" has done is to thoroughly edit and augment the text, and serious tweak and add to the illustrations so as to pervert this drivel about a surprise birthday party into a wild tale about a rogue bunny with a chainsaw and an Evil Plan to chop through the trees in the forest. For example --
"On the way Birthday Bunny met Crow.
"'Hello, Bunny! said Crow. 'Today is a special day!'
"'That is so true!' said Birthday Bunny.
"Crow swooped down. 'I am saving shiny pebbles for my Sparkly Nest. And I have just finished my collection.
"'Oh,' said Birthday Bunny. I will be on my way.
"Bunny hopped sadly past Crow.
"'Bye, Bunny,' said Crow. and flew off into the sky."
Text after Alex's revisions:
"On the way, Battle Bunny met Crow.
"'Halt, Bunny!' said Crow. 'Today is your unlucky day!'
"'That is so false!' said Battle Bunny. 'Because today I am going to whomp on you, birdbrain, and pluck you like a sick chicken!'
"Crow swooped down. 'I am saving the forest from your Evil Plan. And I will finish you off with my megatron bombs!'
"'No!' said Battle Bunny. 'You will not stand in my way.'
"Battle Bunny whomped Crow into the stratosphere.
"'Aieee!' said Crow, spinning off into the sky."
I should also mention that Alex has drawn himself into the story as the eventual hero.
It just flashed on me how fun it was at that age, sitting around a campfire in Boy Scouts with Mad Libs when no leaders were around to censor what we concocted out of our fertile minds.
I'm really hoping that some of you take Sharon's suggestion literally and set this up as a writing project in which those fourth and fifth graders can employ this as a model to create something new out of a few of your weeded books.