Raise your hand if you've ever been told "Don't play with your food!" I'm not necessarily talking about the same type of fun as the little rascal twelve pages into No David! by David Shannon has. I'm thinking how you might be moving your peas off to the side of your plate as you gaze off in the distance dreaming of hot fudge sundaes or swirling around your mashed potatoes as you envision the twister in The Wizard of Oz. At my house we never really played with our food much because it meant eating a meal would take longer. This translated into not being able to go back outside to play until dark snuffed out the daylight.
Author illustrator Bob Shea takes this activity to a whole new level. Buddy and the Bunnies in Don't Play with Your Food! (Disney Hyperion Books) introduces readers to the most monstrous monster of all. What this grumpy guy cannot know is he is about to meet his match, a whole bunch of crafty cottontails.
Don't make me come
up there, mountain!
Look out! Flowers, trees, the lake, birds and the sun are all victims of this vile creature's verbal wrath as he strolls about the countryside. Uh, oh! It's three sweet rabbits playing checkers.
Buddy the monster is hungry. Buddy the monster is going to gobble up those bunnies. Buddy the monster is stopped in his tracks.
It would seem the happy hoppers are just about to make cupcakes. Having a fun-filled game of hide-and-seek as they bake to perfection is exactly what the foursome does. Full to bursting Buddy, after nine of these delicious delights, promises to come back tomorrow to devour these clever chefs.
To Buddy's surprise it is much too hot to jump into his mouth the next day. It's off to the local swimming hole for giggles and grins. Tuckered out from all the frolic and floating, this monster softly walks away from the sleeping hares. Perhaps another time would be better for keeping his vow.
A Stripey-Stripe Club and a visit to the carnival are Buddy's final undoing. When he visits the bunnies again they deliver the fateful phrase. Down in the dumps, Buddy ponders his position and makes a startling discovery.
There are words in stories, dialog and descriptions, which can be read silently with great effect but to be truly enjoyed they beg to be read aloud. This book is one of those times when you will find it hard not to give voice to the narrative before you've even turned the title page. Bob Shea's notable use of language shines forth as strong as Buddy's booming voice and personality. His knack for knowing exactly what the child's ear wants to hear is exceptional. Here's an example.
"No, please, no!
We were about to make cupcakes!"
"What kind of monster do you
think I am?" said Buddy.
Bunnies for dessert."
You have to admit the large-eyed, orange-striped, horned monster feeding a cupcake into his cavernous mouth, as bunnies merrily hop among others on the front jacket and cover, is a definite draw. On the back your curiosity is peaked by the peaceful scene of the same creature blissfully asleep as five rabbits cuddle around him. On the opening endpapers among a forest of tiny triangular trees Buddy is roaring his way toward three smiling bunnies playing badminton. (At this point I'm laughing already. Badminton?) Traveling along he gives the mountains a piece of his mind. He growls out the title. On the verso and dedication pages his obvious distaste for flowers is shouted out among a field of blossoms.
Backgrounds in retro shades of green, orange, pink, blue, gold, rosy red (and black) highlight his vivid, bold and lively illustrations. Heavy black lines accentuate Buddy's ravenous nature and form in contrast to the dainty white shapes of the (cough) innocent bunnies. Extra attention given to details elevates the already humorous tale; tee-hees appearing as ears pop up from behind a turtle or out of a hole, bunny grins wearing cupcake frosting, or Buddy holding a drink as he drifts in an inner tube. You have to wonder what particular tune might be spinning on the record player as gazillions of be-bopping bunnies surround a high-stepping Buddy on the closing endpapers.
One of my favorite two-page spreads is Buddy riding The Whip with seven other bunnies. He's looking a tad bit queasy. They are looking pretty pleased with themselves. The background is black with bright blue, green, red and yellow splashes of color shooting off like fireworks around the spinning cars. A texture similar to block printing shines through in some of the elements.
Who would have thought the food you are not supposed to play with is alive? Author illustrator Bob Shea imagined it, bringing loads of laughter to any readers of Buddy and the Bunnies in Don't Play with Your Food! If you think your listeners are going to be content to hear this only one time, think again. I can already hear the chorus of "Read it again!"
For more information about Bob Shea and his work please follow the link embedded in his name above. To hear the pronunciation of his name follow this link to TeachingBooks.Net. Julie Danielson hosts Bob Shea and artwork from this book at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Enjoy the video below where we get a look at the process involved in creating this title.