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The Rabbit Listened

In my cur­rent reg­u­lar sto­ry­time group, I have a lit­tle one who insists he has what­ev­er book I’m read­ing at his house, too. I hold up a book and he jumps in excite­ment. “I have that book at my house!” he says, while his par­ents shake their head behind him. I tease him say­ing, “We must have exact­ly the same book­shelves.” And he nods, as if I’ve final­ly under­stood.

This phe­nom­e­non has spread a bit, and now oth­ers also jump in with excite­ment say­ing that they, too, have the book I’m about to read them. Some­times they do, usu­al­ly they don’t. It makes no dif­fer­ence — we’re there to read the book togeth­er. This last week­end, since Valentine’s Day approa­cheth, we read sto­ries of love. We talked a lit­tle about how we love oth­ers, how love is an action — some­thing we do.

When I held up The Rab­bit Lis­tened by Cori Doer­rfeld (writer and illus­tra­tor), a fam­i­ly of three lit­tle ones jumped up excit­ed­ly. “We have that book! We have that book!” They could hard­ly hold it togeth­er they were so excit­ed. I fig­ured they prob­a­bly did have the book since their response was so coör­di­nat­ed.

I love read­ing this book to a group. They fol­low Tay­lor, the lit­tle one in the book, as he decides to build some­thing with his big box of blocks—Some­thing new. Some­thing spe­cial. Their eyes are wide in won­der and expec­ta­tion. 

It’s usu­al­ly a qui­et begin­ning. I watch the kids’ eyes “read,” fol­low­ing the lit­tle build­ing block con­struc­tion vignettes as we go. But these three siblings…they were bounc­ing on the edge of their seats—glee­ful, out­ra­geous­ly delight­ed with what they knew was com­ing.

What comes first is some­thing every child knows. Out of nowhere…things came crash­ing down.

I had half a group of lis­ten­ers with empa­thet­ic slumped shoul­ders as they sur­veyed the destruc­tion. But still, three were bounc­ing in excite­ment. I kept read­ing.

The chick­en was the first to notice. The chick­en has a lot to say. Too much to say. She wants to talk, talk, talk about it. But Tay­lor doesn’t feel like talk­ing. The three who were famil­iar with the sto­ry were now fair­ly lev­i­tat­ing they were so excit­ed. I turned the page. And there it was: the bear page.

 

Clear­ly, this is what they were wait­ing for — they shrieked in mock hor­ror. The bear rarrs and grarrs. We made the most of this togeth­er. We rarred and grarred to the utter delight the three who knew the story…and just to the edge of ner­vous­ness for the rest in the group.

As soon as I turned the page after the bear, the three sib­lings set­tled in their chairs, their smiles wide, and lis­tened to the rest of the sto­ry in rel­a­tive calm. The ele­phant comes and tries to fix things up…the hye­na sug­gests they laugh about it all…the ostrich demon­strates a great way of hid­ing and pre­tend­ing noth­ing has happened…the kan­ga­roo wants to sweep it all away…and the snake sss­sugggestsss they knock down some­one else’s blocks.

The chil­dren were riv­et­ed — espe­cial­ly to the snake. They sat up. They watched me hissssss the lines. They knew this thing — this temp­ta­tion to strike back/out — vis­cer­al­ly. And it dawned on me that they knew the bear’s reac­tion well, too. This group is young. They fre­quent­ly respond with grarrs and lash-outs — they could feel the bear’s and the snake’s reac­tions in their bones.

The book is called The Rab­bit Lis­tened for a rea­son. After all the oth­er not-so-help­fuls leave the scene, the rab­bit comes and care­ful­ly, with the great­est respect,  sits next to Tay­lor. In silence.

The chil­dren stare, open-mouthed at Doerrfeld’s draw­ings. The rab­bit lis­tens as Tay­lor talks and shouts and remem­bers and laughs. The rab­bit lis­tens to ill-advised plans to hide, and throw things away, and ruin things for oth­ers. The rab­bit does not leave. Does not preach or argue. The rab­bit lis­tens.

And after Tay­lor runs through the gamut of emo­tions, he decides to build again.

My group broke into smiles all around. They total­ly got it.

As they left sto­ry­time I heard an old­er broth­er say to a younger broth­er, “The rab­bit loves best, doesn’t he?”

Indeed, the rab­bit loves best.…

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