“This will not do, this will not do at all. You are a naughty bunny, a very very naughty bunny.”
The central lines of “The Naughty Bunny,” a children’s book published in December 2020, introduce a mischievous pet difficult to manage for its new owners. Returned to the pet store numerous times for his troublesome behavior, the bunny eventually finds his forever home when a mother and son decide to take a chance on him.
Rachel Evans and her 13-year-old son, Cameron Alvarado, co-authored “The Naughty Bunny” to draw on their true experience of working to understand and appreciate their unique pet.
Like many children, Cameron yearned for a pet at 5 years old, and his mom said she wanted to provide that experience for him. The family came upon Tiny, a baby bunny with velvety white fur and prominent blue eyes.
“He was a little bit sad and lonely,” Cameron said about first noticing Tiny in the pet store. “I just thought maybe if he was in our family he would be happier.”
Named “Tiny” for his petite size, the bunny did not instantly get along with his new family, they said. Rather, he chewed on electrical cords and ate papers, earning his “naughty” title. When Cameron wanted to run around and play “Superman” with the bunny, he said he felt disappointed to find Tiny had no interest. It wasn’t until Cameron and his mother took the initiative to learn about rabbits — their nature, habits and needs — that they began to understand and appreciate their pet.
An educator and natural storyteller, Evans said she first began to use Tiny as an anecdote while teaching writing at a summer camp. Intrigued by the story of the naughty bunny, Evans said her students encouraged her to complete the story.
Seeking a learning experience to share with her son, Evans said she decided to take on the project. She said Cameron had worked to overcome speech challenges when beginning school, and she believed a writing project would help build his confidence and allow him an opportunity to hone his storytelling skills.
“How our writing partnership works is that we kind of talk about what we want to do, and then Cameron will think of the plot,” she said. “From that, then I shape it and I write it and I put it together.”
Evans said the duo wanted to weave themes of tolerance, understanding and emotional intelligence in the book as they retold the experience of adopting and learning about their pet. For Evans, these themes are resonant of her own upbringing.
“I’m originally from Mississippi — south Mississippi, and I grew up in a bicultural family,” she said. “So, I just kind of thought about some of the experiences I had coming up, with people making assumptions about me, assumptions about my family dynamic and things of that nature.”
The book centers on Tiny and the boy who adopts him. When the boy and his mother initially bring Tiny back to the pet store to exchange him for a different pet, the boy realizes he did not give the bunny enough of a chance or make a serious effort to understand him. From there, the boy begins to learn more about rabbits in order to have a fulfilling relationship with his pet.
“Essentially, to me, the overall theme that’s going to run through all of the books in the series is just sort of understanding, cultural competence, emotional intelligence — just teaching people that if you get to know someone or something better, take the time to learn about them, what they do, how they feel, why they do the things that they do — then you’re gonna have a positive experience,” Evans said. “You’re not gonna be so quick to judge.”
Though creating “The Naughty Bunny” was a fulfilling experience for the family, Evans said the process was not without its challenges.
Four years in the making, “The Naughty Bunny” was Evans’ first venture into the publishing industry. After considering multiple routes, she said she decided to self-publish to have the most control over the final product, as this project was very important to her and her son.
Evans said she is happy and excited about the book and appreciates sharing the experience with her son, who echoes her excitement
“My favorite part was sort of sharing the experience with the world — how I felt about bunny when I first got him,” he said.
After eight years with Tiny, Cameron said he now has a much better relationship with his pet after taking the time to learn about his nature and habits.
A budding storyteller, Cameron said he is also interested in writing film scripts and becoming a YouTuber. As of now, he said he is working on continuing Tiny’s story.
“The Naughty Bunny” is planned to become a series of 6-7 books, Cameron said. While Evans works to translate the first book to a Spanish version, Cameron said he is currently working on the plot for the second book, expected to be completed within the next year. The authors also said they are looking into publishing the book in new formats, such as a hard-cover version to be sold in bookstores.
“The Naughty Bunny” can be found on Amazon in Kindle and paperback versions.
Contact Valeriya Antonshchuk at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @VAntonshchuk.
Valeriya Antonshchuk is a junior telecommunication-news and political science student at the University of Florida. As a news assistant for the Avenue, Valeriya covers Gainesville's entertainment and culture news weekly. Valeriya was originally born in Ukraine and speaks fluent Russian.