Chickenhare

Chris Grine. Scholastic/Graphix, $10.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-545-48508-1
Witty comebacks, fast pacing, and a demented taxidermist—Grine’s debut has it all. First published by Dark Horse and now available in a new, full-color edition, the book stars Chickenhare, a smart-alecky rabbit with chicken legs and feathers, who has been abducted along with gullible Abe, a bearded box turtle. Rare creatures both, they are being taken to twisted taxidermist Klaus, who kills his animals to ensure they won’t leave him (“Why don’t my pets return my love, Fingerbones?” he asks his butler querulously). Banjo and Meg, two other taxidermy prospects (whose real identities are only hinted at), help Chickenhare and Abe escape and give Chickenhare the chance to free a tormented soul. This is no picnic of a story—it involves a decaying goat carcass, inadvertent cannibalism, and a truly unbalanced villain—but humor always tempers the horror. “You keep that filthy tail out of my face or I’ll cut it off!” Meg snaps at Banjo. “I think someone needs a nap!” Banjo says archly to the camera. Strong, simple lines establish the strange characters and polar setting with authority. A sequel can’t come too soon. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2012
Release date: 02/01/2013
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