Sunday, October 26, 2008

You CAN go home again!

Anyone with warm, fuzzy memories of an 80s sitcom who stumbles across an episode on TV Land will understand why I was a smidge apprehensive about rereading the Bunnicula series, the first four books of which I adored as a child. There are many things I enjoyed as a child (television shows stand out the most) that simply...weren't that good. Fortunately, Bunnicula lived up to my memories, with a bonus of three books I had never read in the series! I had a great time zipping through these again, and it'll be fun to read them out loud to Lilah when she's older.

The premise of the series is that Harold, the Monroes' dog, brings manuscripts to his editor detailing the strange events in the Monroe household. These were much funnier than I remembered, and I suspect much of the humor went over my head as a child. Nighty-Nightmare was published in 1987, and that was the last I had read. I am happy to report that Howe has kept up his standards to produce three delightful sequels since then. Howe parodies horror films and books to great effect, and one assumes he has a blast writing these. The funny thing about the Bunnicula series is how little Bunnicula is in the books. He's completely left out of a few, and he doesn't talk or interact much when he is there. Yet, he's an important presence in the series. A spin-off series "written" by Howie the puppy is also out there, and I have them in my amazon cart!

Bunnicula: The first of the series introduces the Monroe family: Mom, Dad, Toby, Pete, Harold (the dog), and Chester (the cat). The Monroes find a bunny while watching Dracula at the local movie theater, so they name him Bunnicula. When vegetables turn up with all the juice drained from them, Chester decides that Bunnicula must be stopped: "Today vegetables...Tomorrow the world!" Harold is torn between his loyalty to his friend Chester and sympathy for the little bunny. This is a short book with lots of humor, suspense, and memorable characters.

Howliday Inn: Harold and Chester are sent to Chateau Bow-Wow while the Monroes go on vacation. Something strange is afoot there, and Chester insists on investigating in his usual suspicious manner. The other Chateau inmates add fun and color to this entry in the series, which culminates in the Monroes' adoption of puppy Howie.

The Celery Stalks at Midnight: Still one of my all-time favorite book titles. When Bunnicula goes missing, Chester fears for the family, Centerville, even the world. Strange happenings, like Pete and Toby wearing cloaks and taking other children prisoner, strike Chester as evidence that Bunnicula is exerting power over humans as well as vegetables. The solution is hilarious as Chester is proved completely wrong.

Nighty-Nighmare: The Monroes go camping (with the animals and meet up with rednecks Bud, Spud, and their dog, Dawg. When Dawg gets the animals lost in the woods, Chester fears for the Monroes at the hands of Bud and Spud. Bud and Spud (and Dawg) turn out to be nothing like they seem. Howie's puns abound in this one, and spoofs of horror film conventions keep this one going, but Chester's tale of horror is the real highlight.

Return to Howliday Inn: Chester, Harold, and Howie are back at the ol' Chateau. Howie is excited to see where he was born, but Chester and Harold remember the healthy but tasteless food. New and familiar animals brighten this story, and the ending is surprisingly sweet.

Bunnicula Strikes Again: Chester has gone after Bunnicula again, telling Harold ominously (and smugly) that everyone is safe from Bunnicula. Meanwhile, the Monroes are protesting the demolition of the historic theater where they found Bunnicula. If the plot involving Bunnicula's mother is a bit convoluted, the sibling rivalry makes up for it.

Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow: Previous books have mentioned M. T. Graves, author of the FleshCrawlers series for children, read devotedly by Pete and puppy Howie. In this one, Pete wins a competition and the prize is a visit from M. T. Graves. He shows up dressed in black with his pet crow, Edgar Allan Crow, on his shoulder. Chester assumes the crow (and the murder of crows that turns up outside) is an omen of evil, and sets out to unmask Graves. The suspense is well-done, and the solution inventive. A great ending to the series.

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