Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bunnicula and Geronimo Stilton

Wanting to catch up on what's popular, I finally took the time to familiarize myself with two very popular series, Bunnicula and Geronimo Stilton. I downloaded the books to my mp3 player, and these reviews refer to the audio versions.

Geronimo Stilton, Books 1-3 (I only listened to Book 1)
Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye, The Curse of the Cheese Pyramid, Cat and Mouse in a Haunted House from the Geronimo Stilton series by Geronimo Stilton. Read by Edward Herrmann and published by Listening Library.

Of course, as evidenced by the sheer number of titles in the series, Geronimo Stilton is obviously very popular. This audio version was also an Audie Award finalist and a Listen Up! award winner. Now that I've got that out of the way, I'll admit that I didn't enjoy the Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye. The narrator, Edward Herrmann, is certainly a capable reader for most of the characters, however, his vocal portrayal of Geronimo's young sister, Thea, was in my opinion, almost creepy. It certainly did not evoke an image of a spoiled younger sister. Aside from that, there were some excellent sound interjections (waves, crashes, etc.). I think this was a needed addition to compensate for the lack of colorful graphics that are so prominent in the print version. The Lost Treasure is a somewhat predictable adventure story of the reluctant adventurer, Geronimo Stilton. I find it interesting that Geronimo Stilton is a hugely popular series about an adult, an adult mouse in this case, but an adult nonetheless. Amelia Bedelia (Peggy Parish), and to a lesser degree, Mr. Putter (Cynthia Rylant), are the only other "adults" that have such a large appeal to K-4 readers.
Next time, I'll choose a print version.

The Bunnicula Collection, Books 1-3 (I listened to Books 1-2 only) by James Howe, read by Victor Garber. Published by Listening Library.

I'll call the Bunnicula books, Horror Lite - something to appeal to a younger crowd that craves eerie suspense on a much milder scale than that of an R.L. Stine book. Bunnicula is, of course, a vampire rabbit - not of the blood drinking variety, though - Bunnicula prefers vegetable juice.

Bunnicula may be the namesake of the series, but the main characters are Bunnicula's fellow house pets, Harold the dog, and Chester the cat. The resident vampire, Bunnicula, is nocturnal and does not speak. The Bunnicula stories are written in the voice of Harold, the Monroe Family's lovable and obedient dog. The story is preceded by a note from the "publisher," explaining the circumstances under which he came to publish the manuscript written and delivered by Harold the dog. The stories are suspenseful in a non-threatening manner, and most of the supernatural suspense (are there werewolves at Chateau Bow-Bow?) is resolved in the end. Chester, a highly intelligent and suspicious cat with a superiority complex, is a perfect foil for Howard, steadfast, loyal and calm. Mr. and Mrs. Monroe and their two boys round out the family. Victor Garber moves seamlessly between the many voices in the story. In Howliday Inn, he creates numerous and memorable character voices for each of the kennels' many 4-legged inhabitants.
In both series, there are puns and jokes that will not resonate with young readers (imagine the spurned French poodle, Louise, calling her rival, "Hester Prynne!"), but while they don't add to the story, they don't detract from it either.
Popular with boys, series readers, and Grade 4 and under.

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