Friday, April 22, 2011

All about Eggs (and the Easter Bunny)

Spring comes with Easter. Close to Easter, each day we witness the spring’s dominant presence in our backyard, streets, and neighboring parks. Easter is the day that we celebrate every thing that comes back to life after the long winter (literally and metaphorically). For children, it is about eggs, egg hunting, a bunny that lays eggs, and family gatherings, all of which carry out Easter’s spirit, and yes, fun. So here we have electrifying eggs and Easter bunny stories, Susan Glass’ The Great Eggscape and Lorna Balian’s Humbug Rabbit.

In The Great Eggscape, two villain protagonists, Benedict, aka “Benny,” a mean soul, and Aggie, a “hard-boiled type,” decided to escape their fate of becoming colored Easter eggs (“They ain’t got nuttin’ on me”), and wanted to have some fun. Cracking out of the carton, they roughed up everyone in the fridge and went on to the pantry. "They mashed the potatoes, stalked the celery, and tossed the salad.” Those peace loving foods are horrified, but helpless. Chocolate Chip was watching his favorite TV show, when interrupted by this gang. Unintentionally, Chip carries out the mission to beat the “rotten eggs,” while other food neighbors are watching and cheering (Ketchup says, “We’ll catchup soon” and Sugar bowl and Honey bottle exchange remarks, “Isn’t this eggs-citing, honey?” “Eggs-tremely, sugar!”). With clever word play and humorous comic-book style illustrations, this book delivers a delightfully action-packed story with an unexpected ending that kids will love.
Publishers Weekly calls The Great Eggscape “bad food pun extravaganza. . . The Bonnie and Clyde of the refrigerator set,” and praises Cornelius Van Wright's illustration, “ [his] lighthearted paintings kick this already entertaining entry up a notch. His vision of life in the rough-and-tumble world of egg crime features skillful drafting, believable textures, unexpected points of view, and dynamic use of space.”

As many people would agree, I think Lorna Balian is one of the best children’s book authors America has. She is a natural storyteller for children: whimsy, yet warm, sweet yet, with a twist, her stories and illustrations resonate with children’s imaginations so keenly and brighten their faces with smiles. Humbug Rabbit is as delightful as her other works, yet all the charms of her work is illuminated even more.

Granny lives with Gracie, the hen who lays one egg every day, Otto, the rooster, and a devilish cat, Barnaby (you will see why she is devilish!). It is spring now and Easter is coming. Granny has invited her grandchildren for an Easter egg hunt, but Granny can’t find Gracie’s eggs. Granny was worried about Gracie. Meanwhile, the rabbit children who live in the burrow right below Granny’s house, just heard all about Easter from the mouse that lives in the next burrow. They are convinced that their father is the Easter Bunny (the mouse told them so!), and ask him when he is going to start laying Easter eggs. “There is no Easter Bunny!” “Rabbits do not lay eggs!” Father Rabbit exclaims to his children. But, well, the mouse’s story is more convincing. In the mean time, the devilish cat Barnaby helps Granny find her eggs (Gracie has hidden them), and Granny colors and hides them for the Easter egg hunt. It is Easter morning now. Will Father Rabbit really lay eggs?

Each spread page of the book is divided into two worlds: on top is above ground with Granny, and on the bottom is the rabbit family burrow. The two different worlds meet happily on Easter day with colorful surprises that bring joy to everyone, and big smile to readers.

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