cover image Big Bad Bunny

Big Bad Bunny

Franny Billingsley, , illus. by G. Brian Karas. . Atheneum/Jackson, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-0601-8

At first glance, Big Bad Bunny seems like a creature that haunts the dreams of sleeping children: Fearlessly crossing “mucky swamps” and “rushing streams” (“Big Bad Bunny can go anywhere”), the monster has furiously knitted eyebrows, razor-sharp talons and knifelike teeth. But Big Bad Bunny is actually Baby Boo-Boo, the third child of sweet Mama Mouse. Dressed in a bunny suit, the little mouse has run away. Mama Mouse, however, is less meek and dainty than she appears; thoroughly undaunted by swamps and the rest (she “will go anywhere for Baby Boo-Boo”), she pursues and tames the ferocious Big Bad Bunny — with no loss of face on her child's part. In her first picture book, Billingsley (Well Wished ) extends her plot with satisfying onomatopoeia; the oversize format, too, marks this for a readaloud. Karas (Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! ) strategically deploys mixed-media to render the id-gone-wild scenes with comic abandon, often ramping up the mouse's Sturm und Drang so that it energizes an entire spread. The slyly delicate portraits of Mama Mouse, meanwhile, both articulate and defuse the fear that a parent may wither in the face of a child's emotional turmoil. Together, Karas and Billingsley walk the fine line between empathy and comedy. They grant Baby Boo-Boo and her alter ego the right to act out, at the same time assuring readers that there will always be a place for them at home. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)