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In high school, my best friend and I would buy really bad romance novels and take a pen to them, re-writing the story in our own twisted ways. (Oh, how I wish I had kept at least one of those books.)
It’s certainly not a new idea. Many children, as picture book author Mac Barnett notes below, like to mess with books, deface images, channel their inner wise guy. When Mac and Jon Scieszka decided to join forces and create a picture book, Battle Bunny (Simon & Schuster), that looks as if a child has defaced an obscenely sweet story for children (think saccharine-sweet and totally hackneyed), it’s safe to say they had their work cut out for them. We simply haven’t seen the likes of such a picture book before — such a supremely subversive book, one that is essentially two stories being told simultaneously. (I’ve got an early copy of this book. I think it is scheduled to be released this Fall, though honest to Pete, I had thought it was this summer. I try not to post about books wildly early, but ah well. I’m forging ahead anyway.)
The underlying story? A bunny believes all his friends have forgotten his birthday, but in the end he’s given a surprise party. But along comes a child (so the reader is led to believe) with a marker, and this child has wreaked utter havoc on the story and artwork: That sweet birthday bunny is really a battle bunny, the kind who eats
carrot juice brain juice and Carrot Crispies greasy guts for breakfast. And he’s actually not so sweet: He has an Evil Plan after all. (Make that birthday a doomsday, and off we go.) Many forest creatures try in vain to stop him. No worries: A boy, named Alex (the vandal we assume has put his pen to the sweet book) tries to stop the dastardly rabbit, and he has a few tricks up his sleeve, as well as a big secret (oh, and some assistance from the President).
Are you following all this? Yes, Jon and Mac wrote the sweet story first. The illustrator, Matthew Myers, illustrated said story. Then, they all got to work again. Defacing. Wrecking. Fun with disorder and disruption. Spray paint cans in hand. Mischief rules here.
I wanted to ask them precisely how they went about such a thing. All three of them. So, I did. I talked to Jon and Mac together, and then separately, I chatted with Matt. I did my best to weave it all together here. (In the process, incidentally, I discovered—thanks to Jon—that it is actually possible to read this book aloud, something I hadn’t thought do-able before. You gotta get a little help from your friends, but you can really and truly do it.)
Let’s get to it. Read the rest of this entry �