Madeline, has just set foot on Hornby Island, after taking two ferries, island to island, from her school on Vancouver Island. All the other children on Hornby are homeschooled but that's not Madeline's style. Madeline, self-reliant, responsible, sensible, watches over her parents, Flo and Mildred (Harry and Denise), leftovers, along with most of the residents on the island, from the hippy era.
Not too long ago she got a job at the Happy Goat Cafe bringing in extra money, actually the only reliable income the family has, but to her dismay it's usually used in the pursuit of such activities as the annual festival of Luminara; residents making luminaries to welcome the summer solstice. This year she could really use the money for a pair of white shoes. She is to be honored with three awards at her fifth grade graduation with Prince Charles, yes, the Prince Charles, in attendance.
But these problems pale in comparison to her nearly being run over by a car with lots of red eyes peering out of darkened windows with a fox? driving, then arriving home to discover that her parents have been kidnapped; held until they disclose her Uncle Runyon's address. Uncle Runyon is a translator of code living on Vancouver Island; more normal than her parents but a bit of an academic "looney tune". Before he can offer any solid assistance, he falls into a desired coma.
Polly Horvath and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House) is the story of two rabbits finding Madeline under a blanket wondering what's real and what's not and what to do. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny have recently moved into a darling small cottage near Uncle Runyon's manor; leaving a home much too large after their twelve children have left the nest, so to speak. Out of the blue Mrs. Bunny suggests they become detectives; Mr. Bunny giving up his job on the carrot marketing board and she giving up her collecting lint to create art.
Wearing new fedoras (that makes them detectives more than a license) Madeline hires them; after all what is a girl, with a big bottom as Mr. Bunny states without any tact, to do?
What can only be described as wacky mayhem follows. Mr. Bunny's driving skills leaving much to be desired, even if he is wearing Mrs. Bunny's twelve-inch purple sequined platform shoes to reach the pedals, using The Marmot, a garlic bread lover, to decode the file card, the only clue found at the scene of the crime, convincing the Bunny Council that Madeline is a pet to avoid jail, relentless questioning of Flo and Mildred by the ruthless head fox, Grand Poobah, riding recklessly with Mrs. Treaclebunny on her scooter and pushing the Panic Button, all add up to one laughable moment after another.
Translator Polly Horvath brings readers into the realm of mysterious fantasy with endless action matched by even wittier dialogue and suppositions by her characters; imaginings of conversations and the thought processes of the rabbits, foxes and marmots is top notch to a T. Contrasting feet-firmly-on-the-ground Madeline with her head-in-the-clouds parents couldn't be better. Highly detailed descriptions of the life style of the animal world, a near perfect mirror of ours, increase the hilarity.
"Yes, yes, we've covered that," said Madeline impatiently.
"Well, how do we find out where The Marmot lives, then?"
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny looked at each other.
"We thought all children knew how to find things," said Mr. Bunny.
"Google," said Mrs. Bunny.
"I didn't know you could Google marmots, " said Madeline.
"You can Google anything, dear," said Mrs. Bunny patronizingly. "I just learned how to use the computer this year. Mr. Bunny taught me."
"And I'm never teaching you anything again," said Mr. Bunny.
"You got that straight," said Mrs. Bunny.
Contributing to and enhancing the audacity of this tale are the ink illustrations of Sophie Blackall. Injecting humor at every turn leaving out no trifle, in the beginning when Madeline and Mildred are conversing, Mildred is hanging up bunny luminaries, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny fedora shopping, he sticking his nose into a hat or Mr. Bunny's wearing of the platform shoes as The Marmot is disguised, Blackall brings an ageless whimsy to the tale. If eyes are the window to the soul, Sophie Blackall's pictures tell the true tale indeed.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny, translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath with illustrations by Sophie Blackall is a truly funny, fantastical folly full of memorable, heartwarming characters whose escapades laced with mystery are perfectly perfect.