Books that make you laugh are essential, especially on days when things are not going so well. Thankfully, Polly Horvath is a master storyteller who manages to combine humor and poignancy perfectly to give readers a bookish experience that will make them feel so much better in no time at all. Her new book is about a pair of bunny detectives, and it really did make me laugh as I read it.
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 2012, 978-0-375-86755-2
Madeline is very unfortunate because she has parents who really aren’t much good at being parents. To be honest, she is the most responsible member of her family; she is the one who insists that she goes to school, and she does most of the cooking, cleaning, sewing, and other necessary household chores. When her parents are kidnapped by someone calling himself The Enemy, Madeline once again has to be the one who figures out how to save the day. Apparently this enemy wants Madeline to tell him where her Uncle Runyon is. Uncle Runyon is a skilled decoder and presumably The Enemy wants to make use of his decoding abilities.
Madeline tries to get her uncle Runyon to help, but he slips into a coma and is not able to do anything in his nonresponsive state. Thankfully, just when she is feeling desperate, Madeline makes the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny. For some reason, she is able to speak and understand the rabbit language, and she tells the two bunnies all about her parents. Not long ago, Mrs. Bunny decided that she and her husband should try being detectives, so she is thrilled to be able to offer to find Madeline’s missing parents.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny take Madeline home with them, even building her a “hutch” to stay in because she is too large to fit into their home. The only clue that Madeline has about her parents’ captor is a file card that is covered in series of “squiggles and whirls.” Try as they might, Madeline and her new friends cannot figure out what the symbols mean, and since Uncle Runyon is unable to help, they are forced to visit The Marmot, a marmot who is apparently an excellent decoder. The problem is that the marmot is not inclined to be helpful, and his behavior is trying to say the least. Madeline is even forced, at one point, to hypnotize the marmot to try to find out what the coded message on the file card says. It doesn’t help that Mr. and Mrs. Bunny allow themselves to be sidetracked by other matters (often), and that they are not terribly good detectives to begin with.
Polly Horvath is a master storyteller, a writer who has been delighting readers for years with her quirky, often amusing, and frequently touching stories. As they read this unique story, readers will quickly come to sympathize with Madeline. After all, imagine what it would be like to have to parent ones parents, and how frustrating it would be to be dependent on a pair of very nice but rather muddled rabbits.
With evil foxes who have to be defeated, useless grownups, loveable rabbits, and a garlic bread addicted marmot, this is a story that will delight readers who enjoy Roald Dahl’s books.