Children are naturally inclined to take over their world and generally have no respect for the property that gets in their way. My eldest daughter nommed huge chunks from the pages of several of my favorite books; in her sister’s tiny fists, walls and leather upholstery became canvases and writing paper. While visiting my mother recently, I stumbled across the snarky gem on the right, the frontispiece of a book of nursery rhymes, amended by one of my sisters (I’m sure). While children do gain more control over their impulses, I think there is a fearlessness in these creative bursts that can be nurtured as the child matures. Two authors, Jon Scieszka and , and illustrator Matthew Myers, have collaborated on a wonderful exercise in sanctioned subversion by resolving a familiar childhood conundrum. Their premise: a well-meaning grandmother gives a candy-sweet book, an ‘original’ story called Birthday Bunny, to her grandson,
Alex. It is about a rabbit whose friends seem to forget his birthday but it is far removed from Alex’s taste. Instead of tossing it aside, however, Alex takes up his pen and ‘enhances’ the book to better suit his temperament. After scratching out text and scribbling over the pictures, the result is Battle Bunny, an action-packed tale of a bunny’s grandiose plan to take over the world. Alex’s text amendments and tweaked illustrations are artfully added so that the original story can still be read. Battle Bunny serves as a prompt for creative possibility—a possibility the authors have made available to everyone by providing a downloadable version of Birthday Bunny on their website. Now every kid can explore their inner Alex and change the story to reflect their current interests.
That this praise comes from a girl whose default setting is to wince at the sight of trees, purses, and headboards made of spine-cracked books should not be overlooked. But. I absolutely love the idea of building a new story on the framework of the old one. Sometimes, a limitation can be a springboard to invention—seeing the ‘original’ story and having full permission to (constructively) have at it can open the door for a child to fully imagine what else the story could be. I wonder what my sister might have created had she continued her childhood adventure in literary enhancement.
Read more about the process behind the book’s creation here.