A rollicking graphic novel about a girl and her Easter bunny, Brooke A. Allen’s A Home for Mr. Easter (NBM) got me thinking of the days when comic book creators thought nothing of doing books about fat girls (Little Lotta) or big, dumb, diaper-clad ducks (Baby Huey) or anything else they thought kids might find amusing. Tesana, the big girl heroine of Home, though rendered by newcomer Allen in a looser, more alt-comics style, could have easily palled around with Little Lotta in Foodland: the two share the same strength and propensity for active fantasizing, after all.
An imaginative, if somewhat childlike teen with a history of getting into fights with school bullies, Tesana is a high school outsider who, while attempting to ingratiate herself with the school elite as they prepare for a pep rally, discovers that one of the rabbits being used in a date auction has the ability to lay colored eggs. After “going 2012” on the entire football team, she takes the rabbit to return him to his home. In her quest to do so, she runs into a sleazy pet shop owner, cosmetics testers, animal rights activists, and a charlatan magician, all of which want to get a hold of Mr. Easter. The book climaxes in a frantic chase wherein our heroine (who we earlier see dreaming of riding atop a unicorn) gets to race through the woods on a galloping horse. “This is the best day ever!” our heroine thinks.
Both comic and bittersweet, A Home for Mr. Easter takes what could easily be an overly sentimental premise and invests it with an anxious energy. If at times our heroine comes across maybe a little bit too comically dim (after hulking out on the football team, you half expect her to ask George to start telling her again about the rabbits), she ultimately proves a likable and appealing figure. Allen has a knack for rendering visually expressive moments (there’s a one-page segment on a city bus, for instance, where our heroine learns her rabbit can talk that’s particularly priceless) and a facility with black-and-white brushwork that's particularly impressive in the crowded action scenes.
NBM is promoting this release — initially set for June, though apparently moved to the more appropriate Easter season — as the launch of a new talent in the graphic novel field. That it is, and it also serves as the debut of an engaging comic heroine, too. I’d definitely like to read another book about Tesana — with or without the magical egg-laying rabbit.