Quirky Books: Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

Bunnicula was one of my favorite stories as a child. Fun and playful with allusions towards the story of Dracula, it takes place in a suburban home. Bunnicula doesn't drain people of blood, he juices vegetable. The quirky part of this particular book is in "Writing Bunnicula."

A popular book amongst educators Deborah and James Howe received the E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Picture Books. The main expression of the book is tolerance. Chester the Cat is similar to Van Helsing in his desire to remove vampires from the face of the planet. Harold the dog is an introductory character acting as an arbitrator to bring about a happy ending for everyone including Bunnicula. You will have to read it to find out how it ends.

The tale of "Bunnicula" is a great children's book; however, a special edition released in 1999 is better suited for teens and adults. An autobiography of the author and belated wife, Debora, it outlines of their lives as children then slowly turns to a suspenseful tone acknowledging something is wrong.

Beginning in 1976, they took on the project of writing children books, while she was able to contribute to this and a couple other books. Later she passed away from cancer in 1978. The book was copyrighted in 1979.

Several points around the event surface through indirect statements. Roughing out the books became their project. She was worried about fame, a life without a greater statement. They will never have children. This casts a shadow over the entire book. They were both well educated, like the family in the book, yet the story portrays a happy family with two children. In several ways it was a reflection of how they wanted their life to be, an optimistic fantasy of the future.

James' life after Deborah Howe passed on is sorted and the notes do not appear in "Writing Bunnicula." He remarried and fathered a daughter. A couple of years after copyrighting the book, he declared himself gay and divorced his second wife. This is not acceptable to mainstream consumers of the 80s. Perhaps current culture would understand.

Children four to twelve will love this book without the additional autobiography. If you are a struggling artist, the autobiography is moving. Though depressing, it is ultimately encouraging and hopeful. A wide variety of people might be attracted to the book based on personal reasons: wanting a culturally acceptable book for their children, teaching children tolerance, dealing with loss, or relating to a successful writer through tragedy and confusion about sexuality. It is all out there.