Wait … is this a LIBRARY BOOK … that some mischievous kid has defaced with a pencil? Or is it a unique new picture book that is really three stories in one?
Battle Bunny, by Jon Scieszka (lexile: NA; AR book level: NA; 32 pp)
“Happy birthday, Alexander! To my little birthday bunny on his special day. Love, Gran Gran.”
The words penned inside the front cover suggest the supposed original book, Birthday Bunny, was a present from grandma, well-meaning but clueless. Alex, the birthday boy, must have decided the story of a sad bunny who thinks everyone has forgotten his birthday was a bit too sappy, so he takes pencil in hand to improve it. So Birthday Bunny becomes Battle Bunny, complete with rockets, planes, bombs, and an evil plan to take over the world. Who can stop the wicked Battle Bunny? Crow, Badger, and Squirrel cannot, and even the Kenji Fighting Force (with their 1,103 fighting styles) are defeated. Finally the president must call in none other than Alex, whose special birthday powers enable him to save the day.
Scieszka is a man-on-a-mission to write stuff that boys will love to read, and he’s certainly hit another home run with Battle Bunny. Boys who think they’re too old for picture books, or that picture books are dumb, are sure to love the premise of taking a boring story and transforming it into an outrageous battle with ninjas, robot killer bees, and mind-control helmets. They’ll want to read both stories — the original one, still visible under the scratched out words, and all of Alex’s clever changes and additions.
Scieszka’s technique could also serve as a springboard for helping kids with creative writing. Starting with Battle Bunny as an example, take a worn-out, dull picture book (perhaps weeded from a library, or cheaply obtained at a garage sale), and give a kid PERMISSION to mark it up (!), turning it into his own story.