An Easter treat that lasts all year
Baby Bunny's Easter Surprise by Helen Baugh and Nick East, HarperCollins, March 2022
It's lovely to have seasonal stories for specific celebrations and even better when they can be enjoyed all year round. Baby Bunny's Easter Surprise offers the best of both worlds. It's ideal for entertaining little bunnies as Easter approaches but it's also a meaningful story with a powerful message that can be enjoyed at any time.
Letty has discovered that her mother is the famous Easter Bunny! She sneaks out on Easter morning and follows Mummy Bunny on her rounds. But Letty finds the eggs her mother delivers impossible to resist and ends up eating them all. Letty tells herself, 'no one else will know because they're hidden in my tummy.' She doesn't realise there is incriminating, chocolatey evidence on her nose, whiskers and fur. What will Mummy Bunny do when she realises her eggs have ended up in the wrong paws? And what about the animals whose chocolate has vanished?
Letty's antics are highly amusing but the story also has a wonderfully loving parent-child relationship at its heart. Mummy Bunny never punishes or shames Letty; she understands that 'it's hard to NOT eat Easter eggs when you are very small.' Not one of the creatures whose eggs have been hidden in Letty's tummy stays angry with her either; they accept that the impulse control of the very young is more or less nonexistent. It's brilliant how the entire woodland community has so much patience, empathy and affection for Letty. I don't think I've seen a picture book that shows a working mum out and about doing her job before. Although it's quite subtle, I love how this demonstrates that mothers never forget about their kids. No matter how distracted or busy they might seem, mothers always prioritise their children, even when it's not immediately obvious.
Letty complains that Mummy Bunny has hidden eggs for everyone except her. But Mummy assures Letty that she'll never forget her as she reveals a special surprise which I won't spoil. Another thing that's brilliant is that even though Mummy Bunny and Letty's relationship is remarkably sweet, it never gets too syrupy. It's real and relatable and despite being moving at times, it's never mushy.
Baby Bunny's Easter Surprise is an excellent example of rhyming at its best. Helen Baugh's lively text bounces along beautifully - just like a bunny - without ever missing a beat, and is lots of fun to read aloud. There are a few lines that are repeated throughout the story with slight adjustments each time. This helps build tension and adds to the excitement. As little readers love rhyming and repetition, these elements will strongly appeal to them and they also make Letty even more endearing.
Nick East's illustrations bring extra humour to the story. Both my newly-seven-year-old and my nearly-five-year-old find Letty's exploits hilarious and they also love the reactions of the animals who witness her in action. There are lots of details that make us laugh such as the owl's tree swing and how outraged he seems by Letty's chocolate consumption. The toadstool homes hint at fairy tale magic while Letty's house is filled with items like snug blankets and nightlights that are just like my kids' own. One of my youngest's favourite characters - besides Letty - is the mole who emerges from a hole at the start of the story. She always points at him and does a sound effect at the same time.
We're huge fans of Nick East's animated style and he has illustrated some of our most-read books. The artwork for Baby Bunny's Easter Surprise is extremely colourful with lots of energetic lines denoting movement and what the characters might be seeing or feeling. Eye-catching patterns on some of the eggs, fabrics and parts of the landscape create interesting textures that make the images even more dynamic. The characters are as comical as they are cute, with priceless expressions from all of them at different times, even a crow who observes from afar. Letty's big eyes and oversized ears have won me over, particularly when her tongue pokes out of the side of her mouth as she concentrates!
Although they're very different, Baby Bunny's Easter Surprise joins Helen Baugh's previous book, The Spots and the Dots, on our shelf of favourite stories. Letty is already part of the family! When I joked about hiding my kids' Easter eggs in my tummy while they were at school, the youngest pointed out that they'd know because, like Letty, there would be tell-tale chocolate left behind. I do have a lot in common with Letty and her lack of willpower (although my kids' treats are safe) but I can also relate to her mum, even though my own work is not nearly as important!
Baby Bunny's Easter Surprise is as delectable as the most delicious of chocolate eggs. But unlike chocolate, it will last much longer and won't give you a tooth or tummy ache. If you're a teacher, this will perfectly complement your Easter activities. If you're a parent, this book will keep your little bunnies laughing all through the year!