It’s Happy Bunny: Life. Get One (special edition). By Jim Benton. Scholastic. $5.99.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell! By Lucille Colandro. Illustrated by Jared Lee. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. $5.99.
Don’t expect too much and you’re less likely to be disappointed. That could be the watchword for both these books, which are fine and amusing as far as they go – but don’t go very far. The latest It’s Happy Bunny entry from Jim Benton (actually a modified “special edition” of a book of the same title published three years ago) is yet another fairly snide, moderately amusing set of comebacks (or come-forwards, if you haven’t been insulted yet) by the sweet-looking but deeply cynical Happy Bunny. What makes the edition “special” is that it is only a partial book: six pages at the end are left blank so you can “collect signatures from your friends, so when you forget them later…you can remember who [sic] to make fun of.” That’s not only ungrammatical but also shamelessly exploitative:
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell! is neither stupid nor ugly, but it’s just plain silly. It follows the same pattern as last year’s similar-format Lucille Colandro/Jared Lee collaboration, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! And both books, of course, trace their origin to the song about the old lady who swallowed a fly, then a spider, then a bird, and so on. In the new book, she swallows a shell – why? “She didn’t tell.” Then she swallows a crab to live in the shell…a fish to catch the crab…a gull to scoop up the fish…and so on. The bewildered expressions given by Lee to the characters keep the book amusing, while Colandro maintains the increasing silliness level throughout – eventually making sure that everything inside the old lady emerges safe and unharmed. There’s not much to the book, but it’s cute enough so younger children will likely enjoy the rhyming patterns and increasing absurdity of the old lady’s appetite.