Monday, 7 December 2015

Classic book review: The Munch Bunch Series

I loved the Munch Bunch as a kid. Before the age of seven or so, my two go to series that never failed me were the Mr Men, and the group of anthromorphic fruit, vegetables, and later a few select nuts who had escaped from certain doom at the green grocers, and lived at the bottom of the garden around the shed. Part of the allure was the almost unattainable aim of collecting the whole series, but
just as you thought you'd  completed the set on the back of the book, the publishers would release

Anyway, Luke discovered all my old books at my parents' house today, so we've been having loads of read alongs. I'd forgotten so much, but generally the rules seem to be:

1. All the berries are naughty, but don't pay much in the way of consequences.
Billy Blackberry and his friend Scruff Gooseberry decided to build a tunnel for the purposes of stealing the stock of the local confectionaire in order to fully stock their own shop. Despite the seemingly incriminating evidence of the entire inventory of one shop turning up in the only other similar outlet in the neighbourhood overnight, it actually takes several days for local constable Merv Marrow to overhear a confession. But instead of arresting him on the stop, Merv puts together an elaborate plan involving secret tunnels and diversions to land Billy and Scruff directly in jail for a lengthy sentence of... 'Not long.'

Rozzy Raspberry got it a little bit harsher, though her punishment could have been labelled slightly more inappropriate and dangerous when she was locked out of her house overnight for playing a few pranks on her friends.

2. Racial stereotypes are OK 
The Munch Bunch have no difficulties making sweeping stereotypical generalisations of whole populations. To start off with, there's Ollie the cowardly French onion, who's always crying.

Pedro the Orange, who wears a sombrero and strums an oversized mariachi style guitar.

Lizzie the Leek, meek, subservient and wearing a Welsh hat.

Supercool the cool cucumber, who seems to be a caricature of a Rasta, with his oversized hat and glasses, though appearances can be deceptive I suppose.

I guess it probably took all the restraint the author and illustrator had when they created the New Zealand spin off character Charlie Kumara (pals with the other Kiwi special releases, Kiri Kiwifruit, Ted Tamarillo and Patty Passionfruit)

3. So are inappropriate fancy dress costumes
Olly hosts a fancy dress party, presumably one of those frat-house-style ones with a bad taste theme. Tom Tomato decides to try on some cultural misappropriation with a Native American headdress. But, holy crap, is that Professor Peabody behind him, one upping the inappropriateness in a Ku Klux Klan hood?

4. Quackerry is all the rage, medically
Nurse Plum is the resident medical staff, keeping a small hospital to treat any injuries or illnesses which may strike the Bunch. There's no doctor in sight, but that's OK, some nurses are plenty competent enough to manage on their own. Nurse Plum, however, does have an approach to medicine which could be  described  as unconventional, at least.

Rozzy Raspberry, who as you may remember is a bit of a trickster, presents with an arrow through the head, having been 'shot by Indians' (there's that cultural sensitivity being laid on thick again). It's a trick, of course, but never mind that for now. Rather than preparing for neurosurgery, or, you know, examining her patient adequately, Nurse Plum is quick to lay Rozzy Raspberry up in bed and prescribe a course of  milk and sweets. You may think this is just the good nurse being kind, but no, she does actually say 'this will make you better in no  time'. Of course, th injury being a cruel jape, the worst thing that happened was Rozzy got locked outside for the night, but were an actual traumatic brain injury to present, the moral of this story would be a lot darker than 'be nice to your friends'.

5. The Munch Bunch diet is awful
You may have noticed this already. Obviously, any attempt to eat a healthy diet with five plus fruit and vegetable servings daily was going to end in grim canibalism.  So the Munch Bunch turn to sweets. A new sweet shop opens, with 'every type of sweet imaginable', and the whole town has turned out. Not only that, but when sweets start going missing frim said shop, it's a tragedy  that resonates throughout the township, enough to bring several townsfolk together to thwart the thieves to end the biggest local crisis since  the last spring harvest.

And we've already addressed the sweets as medicine fiasco.

This sort of book may have been OK back in the loose eighties, but you're probably safer sticking to reading your toddler Game of Thrones these days. That said, at least the skateboarding Rasta cucumber isn't too cool to use appropriate safety gear.

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