Bunny vs. Monkey by Jamie Smart
Published by David Fickling Books/Scholastic, January 26, 2016. Paperback of 62 pages at $7.99. Intended for ages 7 – 10, grades 2 – 5.
Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication. Additionally, this material was original published in the UK weekly The Phoenix and collected in 2014. This is the first time this material has been published in America.
The cover: In a beautiful and serene forest clearing, Bunny brandishes a tree limb to smite his foe, while Monkey has a ray gun and takes a pop shot at the white, fluffy mammal. Monkey must have already been hit once by Bunny because he has little spaceships and a star spinning about his head. Though this Tom and Jerry action looks one note from this image by Jamie Smart (with the design of the cover by Phil Falco), there is much, much more to be had in this collection. However, this is a good introductory image that sums up the conflict between the two title characters. Overall grade: B-
The premise: From the press material, “A team of scientists has sent a monkey into space! And good thing, too, because he’s a mean, selfish, noisy, bullying little fur-bag. But…all does not go well with the flight, and Monkey’s spaceship barely clears the first hilltop before crash-landing in a peaceful forest. Monkey, believing he has landed on an alien planet, decides this is a new world and claims if for his own. However the animals already living in the forest aren’t too keen on this idea and Monkey is nothing but a nuisance to them. Monkey’s first decree is that all other animals should be banished! What follows is a series of hilarious, off-the-wall interactions between Monkey and the other forest animals.” Monkey bad, forest animals good, it’s a simple premise that could have some fun moments for young readers. Overall grade: B
The characters: Bunny, the protagonist of the these two to three page gags, just wants Monkey to leave the forest alone and quit being so bossy. His job is undermine whatever the primate is doing. He’s not exactly Bugs Bunny, not near as smarty, but his comebacks are funny and his reactions when things go wrong are also entertaining. Bunny’s friends include a pig named Pig, a squirrel named Weenie, and Le Fox, a secretive animal who’s secret underground lair helps him plan missions. Pig and Weenie aren’t the smartest, while Le Fox is too into his missions. Monkey is almost Wile E. Coyote, though much more talkative. He’s the rambunctious, obnoxious, pain in the bum with a vocabulary that’s hilarious. He’s scheming in every possible way to get the animals out of the forest. His plans are outdone by fate, poor timing, and bad choice in associates. He was hilarious and as I made my way through each comic strip I found myself falling for this incompetent schemer. One of his associates is Skunky, the skunk–naturally, who invents “the most remarkable creations in the world!” In his underground laboratory he builds the funniest and stupidest things one could think of, such as The Cluck Cluck Zeppelin, a dirigible that drops stinky eggs. As the book goes on the inventions cover the gamut from giant mechanoids to mutants, but all are fun. My favorite evil associate was Action Beaver, perhaps the greatest name ever given to a character. Action Beaver is a beaver wearing a helmet (readers never see above his nose) and his job is to smash into things with his head. Well, that’s not his job, but that’s what he does. And while doing so he makes the silliest sounds; his introductory dialogue is “Ftung! Ftung! Ftung! Woosh!” He’s had too many bumps to the noggin, so his banter is at this level. I need an Action Beaver action figure. Every character is either cute, funny, hysterical, or any combination of these. Overall grade: A+
The settings: It’s a peaceful forest, on the ground, below the ground, or in the skies. It’s the perfect generic background for any number of hijinks to occur. There’s action in the air from some flying devices and there’s action underground in Skunky or Le Fox’s lairs. It’s perfect. Overall grade: A+
The art: There’s a host of adjectives that could be used to describe Jamie Smart’s style: cute, smart, simple, complex, perfect, detailed, outrageous, silly, wonderful. The best descriptor would be fun. Smart make his characters emote brilliantly with just the lift of an eyebrow, the slit of a frown, or the gaping maw for mouths as they rave or scream. Every character is amazing looking, every setting inviting, and every action hilarious. I found myself grinning constantly at the images he’s constructed. I need to see more by him! Overall grade: A+
The colors: Beautiful work is done throughout to make every color bright and full of life. The forest is beautiful in its many greens, as well as all the different browns for the trees. The gag involving cherry blossoms is gorgeous and Frog-o-saurus has terrific blues, even if he’s gross looking. This a very colorful reading experience. Overall grade: A+
The final line: I don’t care what the intended age is, this is fun for anyone! This will make the youngsters laugh with the physical humor and make the adults laugh with humor inspired by classic cartoons. It reminds me very much of Lela Dowling’s work on The Weasel Patrol from way back in 1987 in the comic book Fusion. After a few pages you’ll be unable to stop reading. Jamie Smart is a genius! Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+