cover image GRUMBLEBUNNY


Bob Hartman, , illus. by David Clark. . Putnam, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23780-5

The cast—three goody-two-shoes rabbits and one troublemaker—may sound familiar, but Hartman (The Wolf Who Cried Boy) takes a delectably twisted detour. Gray, pessimistic and scowling, Grumblebunny is the antithesis of his relentlessly upbeat cousins, Cuddlemop, Sweetsnuffle and Pretty. When captured by "Bad Wolf Peter the Rabbit Eater," the foursome finds itself in a stew pot. Pretty burbles, "This is the warmest, steamiest, toastiest, and loveliest water I have ever, ever, ever been in!" Newcomer Clark saucily contrasts the Stepford wife–like bunnies, who smile as they swim and dive, with Grumblebunny, who floats sullenly with a garlic clove atop his head. The wolf gags on the broth (made bitter by the sour protagonist), and Grumblebunny sagely advises the vacuous trio to pretend to be equally dour. In a satisfying turn of events, honey-mouthed Pretty shouts at the "great, ignorant, pea-brained excuse for a Rabbit Eater," until the wolf dumps out the pot in disgust. Evidence of Hartman's ironic sense manifests in the saccharine names and descriptions of the wolf's "snack sack" and "Very Dark Cave." With deep-toned watercolors, Clark compresses and stretches the creatures, assigning a cavernous mouth and serpentine tongue to the wolf, and bushy brows, droopy jowls and flattened ears to Grumblebunny—two perfectly cast foils to the perky, hare-brained bunnies. Ages 4-8. (May)