National Book Award Winner Polly Horvath’s Latest Book Kick-Starts Kids’ Imaginations

When you’re a kid, it’s important to flex your imagination as much as you can. Sure, your fingers might have to be surgically detached from your Xbox controller or your latest Apple product first, but once you get the hang of not being hooked up to something electronic, the feeling of just imagining can be quite freeing.

Of course, I’ll dismount from my high-horse and admit that when I was a pre-teen, goofing around on the TSR-80 (hmm, am I dating myself?) did qualify as an excellent way to spend an afternoon. But for the most part, imagining a world outside the realm of normal possibility (like the fact that Michael Jackson would willingly come over my house every day for milk and cookies and a bit of dress-up) made the time spent outside of school that much more thrilling, that much more fun, that much more, well, singularly childlike.

As any parent or educator knows, reading is one of the best ways to get kids’ imaginations running wild. I’ll even go a step further and say that reading books that aren’t based on realistic situations from time to time (like many of the science-fiction and fantasy titles so popular these days) gives kids’ brains a much-needed break from the stresses they face on a daily basis. Yes, if they’re being picked on at school, reading a book with a protagonist who is also dealing with bullying can be extremely helpful in restoring confidence or allowing them to feel like they’re not alone. But maybe reading about animals that talk or, better yet, fedora-wearing detectives (who happen to be talking rabbits) is a just-as-suitable way to spend an afternoon . . . a necessary escape, if you will, and one that empowers the imagination.

Luckily for you, I have the perfect book recommendation to pass on this week. It features feisty multi-lingual foxes in trench coats, off-the-grid parents hailing from Hornby Island in British Columbia, plenty of pseudo-fancy detective footwork, and yes, fedora-wearing bunnies.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–Detectives Extraordinaire! translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. The devil is in the details in this exceptionally witty chapter book by National Book Award winner Polly Horvath. (To be fair, the knack for clever satire belongs to Mrs. Bunny. Horvath is merely the messenger, but for the purposes of this review, I’ll refer to her as the author.) Its tai . . . hmph . . . tale follows a playful premise: Fifth-grader Madeline’s hippie-dippie (human) parents have disappeared. Unbeknownst to Madeline, they’ve been kidnapped by a skulk of foxes bent on discovering the top-secret whereabouts of Madeline’s uncle Runyon, a kooky scientist who deciphers codes for the Canadian government. His services are desperately needed in order to help the foxes translate a box of recipes penned in mysterious squiggles by the newly deceased Fanny Fox in time for the grand-opening of Fanny Fox’s Canned Rabbit Products and By-Products factory. The pure-hearted but supremely spacey Mildred and Flo—Madeline’s parents—won’t cough up the information, and therein lies the rub.

What’s ol’ Maddie to do? Just as any kid would, she sics two burgeoning detectives on the case (never mind that they are talking, Smart car-driving rabbits) who clumsily sleuth their way through various sticky encounters, including a dust-up with a pea-headed marmot with a weakness for Irish whiskey (who uses one recipe for toilet paper), an appearance at the almighty Bunny Council (where Mr. Bunny makes the gauche mistake of wearing overalls), and an unexpected trip to the Olde Spaghetti Factory storeroom, in order to suss out Flo and Mildred’s location and put a damper on the foxes’ master plan.

To read the rest of the post, please visit  Letter Blocks: The B&N Parents and Educators Blog.

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