Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, March 2, 2018

Likely Lost, Finally Found

First think of your favorite things; those items you consider priceless.  Surely there are a variety of reasons these are cherished possessions.  They may have sentimental value in their representation of a person or an event.  They may be a reminder of a deeper feeling of security and home.  In this respect, for many children nothing is more important than their treasured stuffed toy. 

This cuddly companion is a constant source of comfort.  Without it in their possession they feel incomplete.  The Backup Bunny (North|South Books, March 6, 2018) written by Abigail Rayner with pictures by Greg Stones presents the perspective of a toy wishing to become beloved.

Over here.
The name's Fluffy.

Fluffy is currently in a mother's sock drawer.  He's being saved by a wise parent in preparation for the absence of a well-loved toy.  Her son, Max, loves his Bunny.

One day, Fluffy's hopes are fulfilled.  Bunny is missing and he is removed from the sock drawer.  He finds himself given to a crying Max.  At first all is well, Fluffy feels himself being loved.  That lasts only seconds.

Now on the floor after repeated and valiant attempts by Mom, Fluffy is resigned to spending the night with the family cat.  The next day does not go as Fluffy desires.  Finding himself hanging from the clothesline, his frustration grows.  (From that vantage point he also makes a discovery which he keeps secret.)  Fluffy takes action and lands in Max's mud pie.

Unexpectedly, Max decides to befriend Fluffy until bedtime when he simply has to have Bunny.  Fluffy has a choice to make.  The next day Max makes a choice too.  And Mom is simply full of surprises.

By the time you read the first two phrases in this book, you'll be smiling.  Your grinning and giggling grows page by page.  By telling this story from the point of view of the backup bunny, Abigail Rayner releases large amounts of comedy and charm, enveloping the reader through Fluffy's thoughts and words.  This is heightened further by including Max's exclamations.  Here is a passage.

"That's NOT Bunny!" shouted Max.
"His ears don't feel right!"
Mom put me back in his bed.
Max threw me out.

This went on for a while.

At least the cat liked me.

You can't help but notice on the matching dust jacket and book case the affection Max has for Bunny.  Pure contentment glows on his face.  The patched toy bunny appears to be permanently happy.  You get a hint of the humor found within this book from Fluffy springing forth from the front right edge, waving his paw. 

To the left, on the back, on the same background of pristine white, an interior image of Fluffy dreaming of playing with Max is placed within a loose frame.  Continuing with the white canvas on the opening and closing endpapers illustrator Greg Stones portrays Fluffy first in a series of four alternating poses.  He is less than happy especially when being used as a pillow by the purr machine.  On the closing endpapers Max makes an appearance in the pattern along with a surprise indicative of the story.

Beneath the text on the title page, an illustration of Floppy riding on a bicycle with Max shows him living his dream.  Each page turn shows readers a shifting perspective and image size.  Each showcases and enhances the text.  Greg Stones uses white space as an element in his illustrations to excellent effect.

Careful readers will notice the change in Fluffy's expressions, even though he is a toy.  This increases the impact of his narrative.  The details on the socks in Mom's drawer will have readers laughing out loud.  Max's fondness for Bunny is evident in the pattern on his jammies.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the first night Fluffy spends with Max.  He is finally left on the floor next to Max's bed.  We zoom in on the edge of the bedspread and bed frame.  Fluffy is on his side.  His body posture and facial expression depict his exact mood at being a pillow for the family cat.  The cat, curled on top of Fluffy, is sleeping and smiling.

This title, The Backup Bunny written by Abigail Rayner with pictures by Greg Stones, has huge appeal for readers of all ages.  Children never forget the importance of a precious possession.  Adults will applaud the wisdom of this mom.  Everyone will laugh repeatedly at the story spun by Fluffy.  You will want to have a copy of this title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Abigail Rayner and Greg Stones and their work, please follow the links attached to their names.  Abigail has a Facebook page and Greg has a website.  He also maintains an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can download a four page activity guide.  At a publisher's website you can view interior images.  There is a lovely interview with Abigail Rayner and the premiere of the book trailer at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read.  On February 28, 2018 an article appeared in the Community News (Mercer County and Central Jersey) about Abigail and this book. 

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