Born in Guatemala and raised in Santa Barbara, author Margarita Fairbanks is trying to make the world a little kinder, one animal at a time. Her children’s book series, Valentino the Love Bunny, currently has 10 installments and details the life of Valentino, a bunny based on Fairbanks’ own pet rabbit of the same name. She recalled the origins of the series: “I’ve been a volunteer since I was a little girl — candy stripers, hospice work, all that. I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place. And then I got this bunny.” Fairbanks noted that she was raised by her parents to bring all the stray animals home, but she decided to blend her love for animals with her intentions to create positive change only after adopting Valentino. “Whenever I picked [Valentino] up, I instinctively became calm. This love just washed over me,” she said. “Men, women, children — everyone was transformed by him. I knew I had to write, to share this love and calmness with the world.”
The series is tailored as an “old-fashioned, family-oriented story” and reads as an autobiography-meets-fable. With beautiful illustrations and hardbound covers, the series is meant as a keepsake. The importance of family is clear in the plots, as other real-life pets of Fairbanks make it into the series as Valentino goes through his adoption, spends Christmas in the eastern Sierras with Fairbanks’s storybook alias “The Animal Lady,” and more fantastically, learns how to fly an airplane and meets the Dalai Lama.
These worldly travels of Valentino reflect Fairbanks’s goal for international impact. “I believe that the greatest antidote to the inhumanity in our humanity, is to give love in all its forms,” she said, and designed her books to be a part of the remedy. She seeks “to teach traditional values that are sorely needed in today’s society,” values that are detailed in the glossaries included at the end of each installment. Words such as “kindness,” “passion,” and “curiosity” are defined in simple terms through Valentino’s eyes as he completes his story arc from a young bunny living at a shelter to a 10-year-old rabbit who has traveled the world.
Unlike traditional fables and children’s stories, however, the tale of Valentino is more complex, running longer with more intricate plots than the average children’s books. “I don’t think you should dumb things down for children,” Fairbanks said. “Besides, it is meant to be a book for the entire family — read it to your kids, cuddle up in a big chair, and go through the stories together; that’s how it’s all supposed to be experienced.”
In addition to playing lead bunny in the adventurous children’s series, Valentino has become a physical symbol of love through other toys and merchandise, all which can be found at valentinothelovebunny.com.