Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pat the Bunny vs. Pat the Zombie

Here's another dual/duel review that hardly seems like a fair fight, does it?

The world of infant and toddler literature seems ripe for satire or parody. Since parents and other adults wind up reading favorite stories again and again and again and again ad infinitum (I can easily recite Moo Baa La La Laor Goodnight Moonoff the top of my head), it's easy to see how a mind can start crafting another version of the story. If the reader knows the book well enough, playing with the story line or the meaning of what's said can happen almost unconsciously.

Consider Guess How Much I Love You, a sweet little book about Little Nut Brown Hare and Big Nut Brown Hare trying to express their love for each other in the most superlative ways they can imagine. Little Nut Brown Hair stretches his arms as wide as they can go to show his love. Naturally Big Nut Brown Hare's arms are even longer and therefore more expressive. LNB Hare wishes he had arms like that. It's a sweet story, but after the fiftieth reading or so, one could notice a haves versus have-nots theme in the book and give it a socialist interpretation. I have not seen this story parodied yet, but only because I haven't gone looking for it (and apologies to anyone for whom I've spoiled the story--you'll never read it the same way again).

One story that has been parodied is Dorothy Kunhardt's classic Pat the Bunny, which chronicles the adventures of Paul and Judy. They experience the wonders of life, like patting a furry bunny, smelling flowers, or trying on mommy's ring. The child reader is encouraged to try out these wonders too. The various pages have a cotton-filled outline of a rabbit, a scratch-n-sniff flower, and a hole in the page where a small finger can go through. Amazingly, it was first published in 1940, when manufacturing such a book must have been quite unusual. The book is quite delightful and both Jacob and Lucy have enjoyed it many times.

In the spoof version, Pat the Zombie, Paul and Judy experience the horrors of zombie life, like gutting an infected bunny, smelling putrid remains, or putting a finger through zombie mommy's skull. The same publishing techniques are used, so the reader can play along. It's a weird combination of revulsion and humor, though the humor is dependent on familiarity with Pat the Bunny. Published in 2011, the book is not so unusual.

The parody is strictly for adults, as the cover says "A CRUEL ADULT SPOOF" in big friendly letters. Don't buy this book for your toddler! They won't get it and you won't want to explain it. I do not think that it will have the re-readability of the original. The spoof would be more fun to show off at parties, assuming the guests are in the proper frame of mind. You'd have to have lots of parties in order to get the mileage out of the zombie that you would out of the bunny.

So which book is the better one? For re-readability, the bunny easily wins. For pure entertainment value, the bunny wins if you are a child, the zombie wins if you are an adult. For dark humor, the zombie wins. For inventiveness, they are tied. Overall, the bunny wins by a hare. The zombie is fun but not as much as the original.



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