A: Big Mean Mike.
Michelle Knudsen’s new picture book is all about Big Mean Mike and his journey towards embracing his inner bunny-lover. A dog this big, this spiky, and this tough, has his image to worry about. Having a big, mean car that makes a big, mean noise whenever he revs the engine really helps out with Mike’s image. You know what doesn’t help? Having tiny, cute, fuzzy bunny stowaways in said car. This is a BIG problem, and Mike doesn’t like it. Not One Bit. But, if this story teaches us anything, it’s that bunnies are irresistible, even if you are the type of character to wear a spiky collar.
I like how over the course of the first few pages of text, Knudsen gets in as many “big, mean”s as she possibly can. Readers start smiling because we’re getting the feeling that Mike is trying awfully hard to be big and mean, from his bark, to his combat books, to his souped up car. This makes the picture of Mike discovering the first sweet, little bunny in his trunk particularly hilarious. Kids will be laughing as soon as the page turns. It doesn’t matter at all that we don’t know why the bunnies have shown up in Mike’s car. It makes it funnier, actually.
Scott Magoon‘s illustrations capture Mike’s macho attitude perfectly. Mike’s posture, his clenched fists, his very angry eyebrows – all of these details bring Mike to life and convey his increasing frustration with his bunny problem. And the bunnies are adorable. They look soft around the edges up against Mike’s very defined lines, and their little pink cheeks could not be any cuter. Surely little boys will love Mike’s car, which looks like one of my nephew’s favourite Hot Wheels. When the other tough dogs show up for The Monster Truck Show, there are plenty of laugh out loud details in Magoon’s pictures that poke fun at the tough guy crowd.
Big Mean Mike proves that just about everyone has room in their hearts – and lives – for some fuzzy cuteness. Just when you think you’ve worked out your image, sometimes life puts a bunny in your glove compartment.
Big Mean Mike is published by Candlewick.