Henry Holt & Co. (BYR), $13.99 hardbound, ISBN-10 0805099700, October 2014
Introducing Isabel, aka Bunjitsu Bunny! She is the BEST bunjitsu artist in her school, and she can throw farther, kick higher, and hit harder than anyone else! But she never hurts another creature . . . unless she has to. This series of brief stories about Isabel’s adventures are a beguiling combination of child-friendly scenarios and Eastern wisdom perfect for the youngest readers.
Warning: Severe cuteness may result in cases of “awws” and “squees”, particularly in adult readers.
You may know Himmelman from his lovable picture books, including Katie Loves the Kittens and Cows to the Rescue (also sheep, duck, and I think pigs to the rescue in other volumes.) Bunjitsu Bunny has the same sense of fun with a heavy dash of Zen parable thrown in. Isabel may be able to kick serious booty, but she never does unless someone else attacks her first. In fact, the Bunjitsu Code at the end of the book specifies you must avoid confrontation at all costs and never fight unless you truly have no other option. In episodic chapters, Isabel uses her skills and wisdom to inspire those around her. For example, in one chapter, she races a turtle who’s certain he’ll never win against a speedy bunny. Somehow, though, every time he looks back, Isabel is still behind him, and that encourages him to run faster and faster and finally, barely, win. When he asks Isabel if she let him win, she replies that at first, she held back her speed, but that once he believed he could win, he did the rest all by himself.
The illustrations, inspired by historic Japanese art, convey a delightful energy. The low page count is perfect for beginning readers, and the stories impart morals in a thoughtful, not a didactic, manner. Highly recommended.
Recommend to: Beginner readers, fans of Zen Shorts
To buy or not to buy: A first purchase.