A pampered guinea pig named Crunch confronts his privilege.
Crunch’s cage is a well-appointed one, with a “comfy bed” and a framed picture of a tomato on the wall. He also has an (unseen) owner to provide lots of food: lettuce, seeds, celery, carrots, radishes, all devoured with endearing sound effects: “Nom nom! Brrrrrr!” Yes, he’s in the guinea-pig catbird seat. “But there was something missing from his life….” On cue, a skinny mouse named Cheddar approaches the cage and admires Crunch’s breakfast: “Breakfast?! Wow! Are you having lunch AND dinner too?” When Cheddar suggests that Crunch might share, Crunch clutches his lettuce leaf to his breast. Even when Cheddar offers a “big friendly hug” in exchange, Crunch just huddles over his bowl, grumbling: “hugfhbxjbvabhjs.” Second thoughts send Crunch into the world to find Cheddar; though he “discovers lots of new things,” Cheddar is not one of them—but when he goes back to his cage, there is Cheddar, happily halfway through a carrot and ready with a hug. Rabei gets a lot right in her debut: Crunch is an appealingly misanthropic character, and her illustrations, which look like prints, make the most of his personality. But her plot meanders, pacing’s uneven, and while Crunch and Cheddar’s friendship at the end is never in doubt, the path to it is unconvincing.
Funny dialogue and an appealing character can’t quite mitigate weakness in plotting. (Picture book. 3-5)