July 09

Bunnicula, A Rabbit Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe – Reviewed by Danielle Levine


Sunlight streams in through the window as I lounge on the couch with a book in hand. Summer reading is by far my favorite pastime. It’s my time to fill my head with all of the books that I don’t have a chance to read during the school year. My partner in crime is Gwen, the cat. She is usually perched right on my lap, purring away as I leaf through page after page. Imagine my surprise one day as she bumped into the bookcase causing a particular book to fall from the shelf. “Meow,” she implored. I looked down to see Bunnicula, A Rabbit Tale of Mystery.

It suddenly dawned on me how appropriate this exchange was. I was reminded of Harold X as he approached the publisher in the story. Harold X is the narrator you see and an unusual one at that. Harold is the Monroe family’s faithful dog. It is through Harold’s eyes and words that the reader is introduced to the newest member of the family. Pete and Toby Monroe arrive home from a late night viewing of Dracula cradling a box they found inside the theater. Bunnicula is a cute, twitchy bunny with unusual markings. The Monroes are excited about having a new pet. Pete and Toby cannot wait to introduce Bunnicula to Harold and to Chester, the house cat. Chester is apprehensive to say the least. He finds Bunnicula very suspicious.

Needless to say, strange things begin happening at the house. Bunnicula sleeps all day and is up late at night. The rabbit mysteriously escapes his cage, and white vegetables appear in the kitchen. Nothing is more frightening than a plump tomato drained of all its juices. Could Bunnicula be like his namesake, Dracula? Chester is determined to find out, and he is convinced that Bunnicula has fangs. Harold is determined to keep the peace between his two friends, maintain order in the Monroe household, and score an occasional piece of bacon.

Bunnicula, A Rabbit Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe is a treat. I was first introduced to the book as a third grader when my teacher, Mrs. Baker, used it as a read aloud. Now I am in my forties, and I still find that this book is hilarious and is a great mystery. It’s like having an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

The book is a partnership between James Howe and his late wife, Deborah. It is also the first in a series of seven books that feature Harold, Chester, and occasionally Bunnicula. My son and I spent last summer reading Bunnicula and the rest of the books in the series out loud together. We laughed a lot and had to re-read many passages, especially the chapter “Harold Helps Out.” He finished third grade this past June. Towards the end of the year, he bounced into the house beaming. “Guess what Mr. C started reading to us today?” he announced. “Bunnicula!” He went on to explain how his classmates were mesmerized by the story. The appeal definitely has something to do with Harold narrating the tale, and Chester’s antics as he strives to prove that Bunnicula is a force of evil darkness.

Finally, I love that the Howes’ book published in 1979 still holds readers captivated. It is a rare book that appeals to adults, children of all ages, and pets (let’s not forget that my cat most recently showed an interest, but she is a huge fan of Chester’s). Bunnicula, A Rabbit Tale of Mystery is worthy of that summer read or re-read.

Danielle Levine is a seventh grade Language Arts teacher at South Orange Middle School in South Orange, New Jersey. All year long, she loves spending time reading with her family. It’s something they do nightly. She is currently challenging herself to read as many books as she can this summer. Follow her on Twitter @Levineteaches.