Revisiting the original vegetarian vampire: One element that makes BUNNICULA: A RABBIT-TALE OF MYSTERY (1979), by Deborah and James Howe, entertaining for adults as well as children is the voice of the narrator, a good-natured but clueless dog named Harold. Through Harold’s eyes we get acquainted with the Monroe family’s other pet, Chester the cat. Just the opposite of Harold in personality, sophisticated Chester reads books and enjoys showing off his superior knowledge. Not surprisingly, Chester frequently gets things wrong, with hilarious results. He fancies himself a detective and immediately becomes suspicious when the Monroe family comes home from a viewing of the movie DRACULA with an orphaned baby rabbit they found in the theater. Since the black and white bunny has markings that look like a cape, he gets the name Bunnicula.
Chester quickly draws attention to Bunnicula’s odd traits. The rabbit sleeps all day and becomes active at night. He appears to have little fangs. He doesn’t eat the food offered to him. When vegetables in the kitchen turn up white from having their juices drained, Chester concludes that Bunnicula is a vampire. In awe of the cat’s knowledge of esoteric subjects, Harold humbly follows Chester’s lead in trying to expose Bunnicula. When Chester tries to warn the Monroe family, naturally they don’t understand. In one of the funniest scenes, Chester takes matters into his own paws and tries to drive a steak (yes, a piece of meat) into Bunnicula’s heart. Of course, by the end of the book Chester concedes that the bunny is harmless to everyone except vegetables and accepts him as a member of the family. Numerous sequels follow. If you haven’t read this now classic children’s book, give it a try. The interplay between cat and dog and the gentle satire on mysteries and horror fiction make it a fun read.
Margaret L. Carter