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Review of the Day: Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

 Review of the Day: Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

Rhyming Dust Bunnies
By Jan Thomas
Beach Lane Books (a Simon & Schuster imprint)
$12.99
ISBN: 978-1-4169-7976-0
Ages 4-8
On shelves now

All right. That’s it. I can’t take it anymore. Could we please please PLEASE just get it over with and declare Jan Thomas some kind of national treasure / picture book genius? No, seriously people. I am not even kidding about this. I’m tired of the excuses. She killed with her debut What Will Fat Cat Sit On, slayed with A Birthday for Cow, and caused general carnage and delight with The Doghouse. I thought myself the expert of all things Thomas (Thomasian?) and then a fellow children’s librarian had the audacity to discover Rhyming Dust Bunnies before I could. The shame runs deep. Fortunately I was able to swipe her copy (hoo hoo!) and take a look at it myself. Aw man. For any parent that’s tired of the same old same old in their rhyming picture books, Rhyming Dust Bunnies is the readaloud wonder and visual stimulant that’s gonna have the kids rolling in the aisles, right alongside their parents. Once again, Thomas hits it outta the park.

Meet the rhyming dust bunnies: Ed, Ned, Ted, and Bob. As they like to say “We rhyme all the time!” On this particular day Ed starts them off with wondering “Hey! What rhymes with car?” Everyone puts in a vote except for Bob. Bob’s sort of staring in the distance and saying things like “Look!” and “Look Out!” The other bunnies are confused by Bob’s seeming inability to rhyme. Even when he says “Look out! Here comes a big scary monster with a broom!” they’re not quite catching on. Finally he screams out “Run for it!” and the troop run and hide under a dresser. However, when they attempt to restart their rhyming antics, “sat” “pat” and “rat” are completed with Bob’s timely “vacuum cleaner!” and with a mighty “Thwptt” off they go.

 Review of the Day: Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas I handed this book to my husband after I started snorting over it (for about the fifth time) and was much pleased to find that he was just as amused by it as I was. He pointed out to me that this is one of those books where kids at different ages will catch on to what’s going on at different points. Older, savvier children are going to be on edge from the moment Bob says his first “Look!”. Younger tots might not get it until “Look Out!” or the long monologue involving the word “broom”. I did entertain the brief thought that maybe small children wouldn’t like to see the book end with the bunnies in the vacuum cleaner, but honestly it’s a pretty funny ending. The bunnies aren’t hurt, after all. Just flailing the occasional limb.

I don’t mind digital illustrations when they’re done well. And Thomas has that rare gift for synthesizing a book down to its most essential parts. It’s difficult to describe her art without using the word “goofy” over and over, but that’s what it is. There’s this weird manic energy to each of her pieces. Part of what I love about the art for this book is her characters, though. When Bob fails to rhyme the other bunnies don’t tease or chastise him. There’s this great moment when Ted puts out his hand towards Bob, sympathetically maybe, and gently reminds him that “Look!” does not rhyme with “car”. The other bunnies stand there, looking over, their mouths completely missing at this point. Now Bob, to his credit, never lets his eyes leave the big scary object in the distance. Reading this book, his eyes are focused just over the reader’s left shoulder. I think that’s mighty clever. It gives the sense that whatever Bob’s looking at, it’s probably just behind the reader (a nice psychological trick).

 Review of the Day: Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas Thomas has always had an eye for a pure, bright color. In this book the bunnies are red, blue, green, and purple. One imagines the interesting conversations that will occur as parents try to convince their kids that under normal circumstances dust bunnies are hardly so cheery looking. Their backgrounds are, as with most Thomas books, a series of shifting tones. Danger (as defined by Bob) is indicated by a red background, which pops up more often than the other colors. Not, interestingly enough, when they’re sucked up by the vacuum cleaner (that’s blue) but otherwise it’s pretty consistent.

Check out the writing as well. Not many words, but oh the things they do. Kids (and parents) who reread this book for the fifth or sixth time may notice that while the other bunnies have rhyming names like Ed, Ned, and Ted, Bob is the only one who stands apart. And as a read aloud choice, I’ve already had a lot of fun with this one. Like What Will Fat Cat Sit On? the book directly addresses the child reader. So much so that the last image is of the bunnies asking the person reading the book for a little help. But every line has magnificent potential to it. Consider when Ned notes that Bob’s long warning “does not rhyme with ANYTHING, really.” I love the use of the word “really”. And when the bunnies hide under the dresser Ned’s “Good call, Bob” is fan-freakin-tastic. A killer line. Funny to its core.

My only question now is how long is it going to take before Jan Thomas starts writing some easy readers for kids just beginning to learn to read on their own? Because frankly, Mo Willems needs someone to challenge his Elephant and Piggie-based throne. Until that happy day arrives, we’ll have to be content with little gems like this book. It seems strange that something this simple could be this disarming and funny. Rhyming will (hopefully) never be the same again.

On shelves now.

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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Jean Reagan says:

    Yes, I LOVE those darn dust bunnies, and now there’s a sequel, eh? Oh boy!

  2. EM says:

    I want to kiss Jan THomas on the mouth. That is all.

  3. Jules, 7-Imp says:

    Yes, she is a national treasure. This book is funny in seven different directions. As I was recently telling Adrienne Furness (did you see her recent post on her profound love for Jan’s books?), my system of organization at 7-Imp consists of a set of chicken-scratch notes of who I want to interview, but I finally JUST NOW, inspired by yours and Adrienne’s posts, found Jan’s web site, emailed her, and asked already. (My chicken-scratch “try to interview Jan Thomas” has existed for over a year now). Cross fingers.

  4. Jules, 7-Imp says:

    Well, OF COURSE you saw Adrienne’s post, ’cause you linked to it. Der.

    Not enough coffee yet this morning.

  5. Fuse #8 says:

    Fingers crossed. I wouldn’t call her reclusive, but I’ve not run into her at any conferences as of yet. And I linked to the one and only interview with her that I could find. Best of luck, champ! If anyone can do it, you can.

  6. Sarah says:

    This is a fabulous read aloud! A book that both the children and their parents find truly funny!

  7. Susan Mello says:

    Yeah for the Dust Bunnies!
    I put this book on my top 10 list!

    My students had so much fun with this book. I extended the lesson with a puffy yarn ball and more rhyming. I would hold up a 3 letter word and have the children think of rhyming words (much like the dust bunnies) and when they had thought of a word I would toss the yarn ball and they would call out the rhyme.

    I actually told a fellow school librarian about this book and lesson plan while waiting in line to see Jan Brett at Book Expo. Fun and learning, the best of both worlds.

  8. Kim W says:

    Everyone in my family cracks up reading Jan Thomas’s books. We love her and I’m excited to see a dust bunnies sequel! We read her books over and over. In fact, my kids have been known to perform them.

    In my house (which admittedly doesn’t have “rules”) we already consider her books to be early readers.

  9. adrienne says:

    Thanks for the link, and I’m so excited that Jules is going to get an interview with her. I’ve been reading at least one of Thomas’s books in every single storytime I do for months now.

  10. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Harumph. It does not appear to be for sale anymore!

  11. Fuse #8 says:

    Woah. That’s gotta be temporary. Scuze me while I go bug S&S and figure out what the deal is.

  12. Shana says:

    Ooh-thanks for the rec Betsy-we just checked it out from the library and my kids both LOVE it! Hilarious! (now I have writer/editor envy)