Not Richard Scarry, But Pretty Busy

Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, On the Farm, & At the Port – written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Chronicle Books, 2014 (Originally published in Germany by Verlagshaus Jacoby & Stuart GmbH, 2011, 2012

There is popular genre of children’s book, known in German as Wimmelbuch, and popular in other parts of Europe as well.  These books, crowded with activity, may ask the reader to find a missing person or object: Martin Handford’s Where’s Waldo series may be the best known in the English-speaking world.  But even without the search for Waldo’s striped sailor shirt, books in this category present a complete world, where everyone is involved in doing something specific and dozens of details identify each sphere of life’s tasks. As in Richard Scarry’s busy, busy, world (such as in What Do People Do All Day?), each character is both an individual and a representative of a role which kids like to learn about.  While Scarry’s anthropomorphic animals are funny, exaggerated, silly, and lovable, those of German illustrator Britta Teckentrup have a bit of a cosmopolitan air.

As in her other books (and as in Scarry’s), there are several different species, but a bunny family is at the center. Other animals are depicted through their relationships with Dr. and Mrs. Bunny, their two children Baxter and Bethany, and their grandma.  Readers are cautioned to look out for “that pesky Benny Badger,” who “is always up to no good,” although the no good he is up to doesn’t threaten the community’s overall stability.  There is no actual plot, but there are suggestions of one, as when Grandpa Bear is “keeping company” with Grandma Bunny when both families visit the Gardiners’ farm.  Some of the animals seem indeterminate; I’m not sure if the Gardiners are foxes. Everyone is stylishly dressed, regardless of their profession.  If you recall, the workers in Babar’s Celesteville have all the specific gear associated with their jobs, but here simple lines and well-tailored outfits belong to everyone. Grandma Bunny wears green in different shades, and a pink scarf. It’s impossible to tell if she is the maternal or paternal grandmother by the family features.

A trio of Andean llamas plays music, a mare named Margo seems to be pregnant, and a young cat named Logan has a bicycle with training wheels. In a nighttime scene, Dr. and Mrs. Bunny enjoy a quiet moment together with glasses of red wine after the children have gone to bed. Although this may be a romantic moment, one of the little bunny’s toy bus is parked on the table near the decanter.  Going back to Babar, the appeal of Teckentrup’s universe is partly due to its simplicity and sophistication. There is something for everyone here.

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