Reviewed by Ben Harris
When I’m in a bookshop, you’ll often find me browsing the shelves of the children’s books section. While I’m there, I often hear children and their parents talking about the books they want to find and buy and it’s interesting to note that in the past couple of years, one series title comes up time and again: Bunny vs. Monkey. Often the parents don’t know what this is – it’s the children who mention it – so (ever the teacher and comic-book champion!) I’ll help to find the family a copy.
Let’s not forget that the best children’s books are there primarily to entertain and support children, not the adults. Parents and teachers must listen to what kids want and Bunny vs Monkey, like Dog Man and Wimpy Kid in their turn, truly delights children. In my experience, the Bunny vs Monkey books have been among the most popular comic books/graphic novels in my classroom with children of all reading abilities and tastes sliding the volumes from the shelves to keep, protectively, at their desks and personally and professionally I can’t recommend them highly enough.
If you haven’t come across Bunny vs. Monkey before, what you need to know is that each short story (or ‘strip’) was published in The Phoenix comic. (David Fickling Books then published seven shorter volumes collecting some of the strips and have now re-released them in three bind-ups. Supersonic Aye-Aye, the fourth title re-publishes the original volume 7 (the inimitably titled, The Floating Cow Catastrophe) and includes further adventures not originally published in book form.)
There is not a huge difference between the four volumes and you don’t need to read them in any particular sequence. Each strip has a fairly simple premise: a group of woodland animals are out to play tricks or generally annoy each other in a variety of particularly bizarre ways. This book includes a giant monster made out of mucus, a huge robot, and a ‘Cocoonator’ powered by caterpillars. The humour is anarchic, rude, occasionally almost incomprehensible in its zaniness: it’s light, fun, silly reading with an attractively colourful style of drawing. Most importantly, it’s so enjoyable: when I’ve asked my classes why they would recommend these books, unanimously the answer is ‘Because they are SO funny!’. If you’re not quite convinced yet, then how can anyone resist these stories with names like these: The Purple Popplewhatsit, RUNNNNN!, and ‘A Great Big Snotty Cloud’?! (And – spoiler alert! – the strip called Persuasion ain’t got anything to do with Jane Austen!)
This latest volume in the series is guaranteed to be just as popular as the previous ones and is a true ‘reading for pleasure’ book. Do invest!