Fluffy and MichaelThink of a story about a little fluffy rabbit that can talk and has a human personality, and you could end up in one of all manner of different directions. Simone Lia might appear, on first inspection, to have gone down a fairly standard if superbly executed road with Fluffy, a tiny talking rabbit in a human world. Fluffy has all the behavioural traits of a toddler – having significant recent experience of this age group, I can vouch for Lia’s finely honed observational skills. She’s managed to capture the mannerisms and general cuteness of a nursery school-aged child perfectly. The first chapter, which serves as an introduction to Fluffy and Michael, Fluffy’s human ‘Daddy’, is a masterpiece of parental comedy, as cute as it is amusing.

FluffyAs the subsequent chapters unfold, however, we have to come to terms with the fact that the book isn’t really about Fluffy, it’s about Michael, a dysfunctional and guilt-wracked single parent to Fluffy’s enthusiastic and naive toddler. After bedding Fluffy’s nursery teacher in a fit of loneliness, he regrets his actions and takes to ignoring her calls and emails. When it looks like she won’t take the hint from his socially inept wall of silence, he does what any self-loathing, weak-willed man would, and runs home to his Mummy. Michael’s parents live in Sicily so it’s this voyage and its implications that make up the remainder of the story, with young Fluffy on the ride to offer a child’s perspective on the wonder of grandparents and the world in general, perfectly countering Michael’s gloom.

Lia’s charcters are so real they could be sitting next to you on the bus. Except for Fluffy of course, who’s just a bunny, but manages to capture all the joie de vivre that Lia’s human characters have forgotten they ever had.

Fluffy is an impossible book to pigeonhole. It’ll certainly tick boxes for cute anthropomorphic animal fans, though this is far from the be all and end all of the book. There’s a significant element of romantic comedy (or should that be unromantic comedy?) and it’s certainly got layers of underlying themes, from parenthood and single-parenthood to dysfunctional families. The truth is it’s all of this and a lot more – an almost universal story of grown ups making a mess of things, as seen through the unconditionally loving eyes of a toddler. Who, in this case, just happens to be a rabbit.

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