A Nostalgic Look Back at: The Bunnicula Books by James Howe (50th Blog)
The Bunnicula books are favorites from my childhood. Bunnicula is actually the book that inspired me to be a writer. I have more nostalgia from some books in the series than others, but for my 50th blog here on Haley's Book Haven, I decided to reread all 7 books in the series (spin-off books not included) and review them.
Genre: Children's Paranormal Mysteries
Series Length: 895 pages
Series Rating: 4.07 stars
1. Bunnicula (co-authored by Deborah Howe)
Length: 98 pages
Rating: 5 stars
The Monroe family (consisting of parents Mr. and Mrs. Monroe, sons Pete and Toby, family dog Harold and cat Chester) welcome a new, a mysterious rabbit. When vegetables turn up white and drained of their juices, Chester begins to suspect that the rabbit (Bunnicula) is a vampire and a danger to everyone.
The story concept itself is so creative; a vampire bunny and the story being narrated by the family dog. As a writer myself I very much appreciate these aspects. The characters themselves are wonderful. The two main are Harold and Chester. Harold is incredibly lovable (as he should be since he's a dog) and Chester is a paranoid but well intended cat. They have hilarious banter together that makes the story that much better.
2. Howliday Inn
Length: 195 pages
Rating: 4 stars
The Monroe's are going on vacation, and that means that Harold and Chester are being boarded for the week. Shortly after their arrival, however, animals begin to go missing. The duo become determined to solve the mysterious disappearances.
Harold and Chester (and their dynamic together) continues in this novel and is just as hysterical. The novel is very atmospheric (which is great for a mystery). I enjoyed the new setting and the expanding cast which included a wild cat who thinks he's a secret agent (Lyle) and a love triangle among three of the canine residents (Max, Georgette, and Louise). The one thing this novel does that I wish it didn't was it tends to tell rather than show.
3. The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Length: 111 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
After Bunnicula escapes the house, Harold, Chester, and Howie (a dachshund puppy briefly introduced in Howliday Inn) go out in search of him. Fearing that he's turning vegetables into his minions, they must also spear their 'hearts' along the way.
The shenanigans that the trio get into along their journey to find Bunnicula are sure to make one chuckle. Howie is a welcomed introduction to the group. He is enthusiastic, genuine and absolutely adorable. The three have wonderful chemistry together and the story is overall a lot of fun and more lighthearted than its predecessors. The one thing that I questioned was why Chester was convinced in this novel that the vegetables Bunnicula drank from would turn into vampires. This was not something that came up in the first novel even though Bunnicula was draining many vegetables.
Length: 121 pages
Rating: 4 stars
The Monroes go camping in the woods and this time Harold, Chester, and Howie come along with them. They meet a bulldog named Dawg and his human owners Bud and Spud. After becoming lost in the woods with Dawg, and believing Dawg may have ill intentions, Chester tells him a spooky bedtime story so that the trio can sneak away once he's asleep.
This novel was very atmospheric and the creepiest of the four books thus far. Everything great about the previous three novels can be found here including Harold and Howie's lovable personality and Chester's overactive imagination as well as the trio's wonderful chemistry together. I did feel a little frustrated with Chester in this novel due to his judgmental attitude towards Dawg and his human owners. While Chester tends to see many things as sinister when they are not, often he has at least some cause. Upon meeting Dawg and his owners, and knowing nothing about them, Chester immediately felt they were nefarious.
5. Return to Howliday Inn
Length: 116 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Harold, Chester, and Howie return to the 'Howliday Inn.' This time there's a new cast of animal comrades and a new mystery to be solved; what is the secret of the Howliday Inn? Can they escape before they meet a grisly fate?
This is my second favorite of the Bunnicula books. While, much like the first Howliday Inn, there is a mystery, this one falls more under the paranormal umbrella. I preferred the cast of animal characters in this novel to the first Howliday Inn. Among them are The Weasel, who reads like a sweeter, calmer Lyle, and cat burglars Felony and Miss Demeanor are comically devious. I really appreciated the teamwork in this novel and how all the animals came together to help the sad, troubled Great Dane Hamlet. The plot twist in this novel was very creative and one I don't think young readers will see coming.
6. Bunnicula Strikes Again!
Length: 116 pages
Rating: 3 stars
When Bunnicula becomes depressed, Harold, Chester, and Howie become convinced it's because he misses his long lost mother. Chester is convinced she's at the theater in town. The only problem is it's going to be torn down soon.
This was one of my least favorite Bunnicula book for several reasons. The first two reasons are due to dropped plot lines/lack of continuity. The first one was about Chester's fear that vegetables Bunnicula sucked dry would turn into vampires (The Celery Stalks at Midnight). The second was the idea of Bunnicula having children (as seen at the conclusion of Nighty-Nightmare). The other reason was this story didn't add anything new to the series. It is another tale of Chester being determined to destroy Bunnicula. On a brighter note, Harold and Howie are still as sweet as ever and there are cameos from Return to Howliday Inn characters which fit well within the context of the story. I did also find the ending satisfactory.
7. Bunnicula Meets Edgard Allan Crow
Length: 138 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Pete (the eldest Monroe son) wins a contest to have the famous horror author, M. T. Graves come to his school. The peculiar author and his pet crow come to stay with the Monroes. Chester believes, based on the fates of pets in Mr. Graves' books, that he, Harold, Howie, and Bunnicula are in terrible danger.
This novel didn't necessarily feel like a needed addition to the series as Bunnicula Strikes Again! served as what would have been a fitting conclusion. In many ways this book feels like it exists solely to advertise Bunnicula's spin-off series Tales from the House of Bunnicula. That being said, this book is the most feel good of the series and leaves one feeling warm and fuzzy. There's a scene in the book that is sure to give young readers a laugh. Chester's character is much more subdued as compared to previous books though he's still full of ridiculous theories and plans.
Final Thoughts: These books are incredibly beloved and nostalgic for me. Despite this, I did my best to remain objective. Overall this series is one which has plenty of mystery and paranormal aspects while still remaining lighthearted and fun for children. The animal characters (both main and side) are by far the best part as they are given so much personality. Harold is incredibly well done as a narrator. His thoughts are how I imagine any dog's would be if we could actually see inside their brains. This series, undoubtedly, has its flaws, but its still one which always brings a smile to my face.
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