Meet Bunny (short for Bernard) O’Toole—mentally slow, physically strong and fast—the observant, nonjudgmental narrator of this convoluted but enjoyable fable of Toronto gang life recorded in believable, phonetically spelled prose.
His grandfather never got around to getting a tattoo while he was alive. He’s left a letter asking Bunny to do it for him and he does, though the tattoo’s design confuses him. The “15” makes sense—it’s his age—but why is there a candle next to it? Is the tattoo why Jaden, whom he rescued from a bully, and his gang befriend him, even though they’re black and Bunny’s white? Accustomed to teasing and harassment, Bunny finds the gang’s close bond exhilarating. Soon, he’s hanging out at Jaden’s gym, where the manager, Morgan, teaches him boxing. (Bunny’s gifts reflect a stereotype, the disability equivalent of the "magical negro" trope.) Bunny enthusiastically joins in their mysterious deal to raise money to keep the gym open. He reacts to what he experiences; his impressions aren’t funneled through a prism of fears and assumptions. (Readers won’t find the gang so benign.) Loyalty is the currency of their world—something Bunny understands.
Most intellectually disabled characters in children’s fiction are siblings or pals whose treatment by other characters signals their compassion or otherwise. Bunny’s a rare hero—not on anyone’s journey but his own. (Fiction. 10-14)