44 pages 1 hour read

Deborah Howe, James Howe

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1979

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Summary and Study Guide


James and Deborah Howe’s 1979 children’s novel Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery is the first book in a series of seven. The novel was written by the husband-and-wife duo, but Deborah Howe died before their work was published. Bunnicula has been adapted for the stage and turned into various animated series.

Plot Summary

Bunnicula follows the Monroe family, which consists of Mr. and Mrs. Monroe, their two sons Pete and Toby, Chester the cat, and Harold the dog. Harold and Chester are the main characters, and their friendship is tested when their human family brings home a strange bunny. The family found the bunny in the theater while watching Dracula, and Chester immediately notices that the bunny’s fur pattern resembles a vampire’s cape.

Pete and Toby immediately fight over who gets to take care of the bunny, and this initially makes Harold feel left out because he views Toby as his closest human. Chester builds a theory that the bunny, whom Mrs. Monroe names Bunnicula, is actually a vampire because he sleeps during the day. He tries to convince Harold of this theory and uses vampire books to support his idea, but Harold remains skeptical. However, his skepticism lifts when the bunny starts escaping from his cage at night.

One night, Chester and Harold realize that Bunnicula is in the kitchen. They can’t see what he’s doing, but in the morning the Monroe family is shocked to find that their vegetables are white. Chester theorizes that Bunnicula has been sucking out the vegetable juice with his vampire fangs, and he is scared that the family will be next. He goes to great lengths to protect the family from Bunnicula. He hangs garlic around the house and tries to hit Bunnicula with a raw steak, which he misinterprets as the “stake” that kills vampires in books.

Chester’s actions escalate, and the Monroe family believes that something is wrong with him. This tension between Chester and the Monroes extends to his friendship with Harold. Chester has been preventing Bunnicula from sucking on vegetable juice at night, and he’s starving as a result. Harold doesn’t think this is right, and he befriends the little bunny to Chester’s dismay. The tension climaxes when Harold lets Bunnicula out of his cage one night before dinner in hope that he’ll eat some salad. Instead, a chase ensues between Chester, Bunnicula, and Harold. The Monroe family stops the chase and decides that the animals need to see a vet to sort out their problems.

After the vet visit, the tensions in the family resolve. Chester starts seeing a cat psychiatrist to deal with his paranoia and diagnosed problem with sibling rivalry, and Bunnicula is given a permanent carrot juice diet. Bunnicula is now content and no longer escapes from his cage at night to suck on vegetables, and Harold is happy that his household has mostly gone back to normal.

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