Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allen Crow

by James Howe
Star Rating: 3 out of 4
Book 7 in the Bunnicula series

The Bunnicula series for childen is utterly delightful. It combines the Gothic mystery of the Goosebumps, wonderful animal protagonists, and a zany hilarity Roald Dahl would've been proud of. I kid you not: almost every single paragraph of the book is funny. We had the first five in the series on our shelves growing up, and I reread them often because they're just so darn likable.

Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow is, I believe, the last in the series. The books follow the adventures of the pets of the Monroe family and are narrated by Harold, a large longsuffering dog who really just wants to nap, eat, and be comfortable. Howie, a dachshund puppy, is overenthusiastic, has a vivid imagination, and is really not too bright, and of course there's Bunnicula the rabbit, who just sleeps, mostly - and then there's Chester. Chester is a cat. Worse, Chester is a cat who reads and has the bad habit of leaping to paranoid conclusions based on what he reads. He's neurotic and high-strung, and together they're all utterly hilarious:
Chester shook his head. "I fail to understand Howie's obsession with chasing birds," he said.
[Harold] sighed. "It must be part of his job."
"Well," said Chester, "one of these days his 'job' is going to get him into a heap of trouble. Crows are not to be messed with, my friend. They're nefarious. Just look at that one."
Yawning, I glanced at the crow on the envelope to see what all the fuss was about. What I saw was a crow. On an envelope. I didn't think it looked particularly nefarious. Of course, I had no idea what "nefarious" meant.
Chester usually finds something to become paranoid about and drags Harold and Howie into his conspiracy theories. Howie is eager, but Chester has to force sensible Harold into it by sitting on Harold's head and pawing his eyeballs to wake him up. Chester, as a character, is pure cat; Howe even includes the wonderful cat-trick of tail-licking in order to cover up embarrassment (cat owners will recognize this trait with a chuckle).

In this book, one of Monroe sons, Pete, wins a competition to have his favorite mystery author come speak at his school. The author arrives at their house to stay, dressed in a sinister black cloak and accompanied by his pet, a crow.
Chester's eyes met mine. "The crow is coming," he murmured. "The crow is coming, Harold. Do you know what that means?"
"Um, it means... we'll be having corn for dinner?"
"No, Harold. It does not mean we'll be having corn for dinner. It means we're doomed. That's what it means."
"Oh," I said. "Well, that's a relief. Corn gets stuck in my teeth."
(One can hardly blame poor Harold for not keeping up with Chester 100% of the time. He's a dog, after all, and therefore the last to spot a conspiracy. But he's the first to scent out bacon.)

Chester becomes convinced that the author and his "evil" crow are out to steal Bunnicula. At one point, Chester even surmises that they may try to turn Bunnicula into a bat. (Chester really reads too much.) Harold is properly skeptical - until both Edgar Allan Crow and Bunnicula disappear the next morning. I won't reveal any more of the plot, except to say that it's right in keeping with what I expected and a perfectly satisfactory addition to the Bunnicula ranks.

The Bunnicula books are wonderfully engaging fluff, and they aren't long at all - this one took me maybe an hour to read. I guarantee it'll be an hour of hearty amusement.
"And what about that crow of his?" [Chester] ranted. "Do we think it's a coincidence that he's named for Edgar Allan Poe?"
"Who?" I asked.
"Edgar Allan Poe, the greatest writer of horror fiction of all time. Poe also wrote poems. Surely you have heard of his poem 'The Raven.'"
Before I could ask him why he was calling me Shirley, Chester narrowed his eyes and launched into a throaty recitation...
"I like the part about napping," I told him. "And the tapping part reminds me of a certain someone who has a problem with a certain other someone getting his minimum daily requirement of sleep. But I can't say I really see your point."
"My point," Chester snapped, "is that in the poem the visitor on the other side of the door is a raven, Harold! Which is more or less a crow. And the raven has only one thing to say."
"Corn?" I conjectured.

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