A Fun Rabbit Habit

Rab­bit sto­ries could be a sub-genre of children’s lit­er­a­ture. Per­haps start­ing with The Tale of Peter Rab­bit, we have loved to read about rab­bits as anthro­po­mor­phized small humans. They get into all kinds of scrapes, try to run away (Run­away Bun­ny by Mar­garet Wise Brown), turn from vel­vet to real (The Vel­veteen Rab­bit by Margery Williams), take bicy­cle trips (Wher­ev­er You Go by Pat Ziet­low Miller) — even do yoga (Yoga Bun­ny by Bri­an Ruso).

Mini Rabbit Is Not LostIn Mini Rab­bit Is Not Lost by John Bond, Mini Rab­bit loves cake! And Moth­er Rab­bit is mak­ing cake, but there are no berries. “No berries. No cake,” says Moth­er Rab­bit. “No way!” replies Mini Rab­bit and heads off to look for berries. Moth­er Rab­bit knows there are berries close by, but Mini Rab­bit leaves before she can tell him. Chant­i­ng cake, cake, cake Mini Rab­bit wan­ders far, even gets on a boat — and off again, trudges through snow, drops down a cliff, all in search of berries. Nev­er lost, just look­ing for berries. Final­ly, inside a cave with a crea­ture with quite ter­ri­fy­ing eyes, Mini Rab­bit is lost. He starts to snif­fle sad­ly — and sniffs a berry! Care­ful­ly Mini Rab­bit re-traces his steps, fol­low­ing the smell of Moth­er Rab­bit’s cake, and gets the berry back home. It’s the per­fect top­ping for cake. But now Mini Rab­bit wants ice cream.

This sto­ry is charm­ing in so many ways. The Rab­bit fam­i­ly does not live under­ground like reg­u­lar rab­bits, but in a tree house. Mini Rab­bit gives no thought to the log­ic of berries and where they might be found but is dri­ven by the log­ic of mov­ing. And per­haps it was nev­er the berries. Per­haps it was just the adven­ture. What young rab­bit does not want adven­ture? (And we are left to won­der at the end — will the ice cream need some­thing that sends Mini Rab­bit off on anoth­er adventure?)

The sin­gle­mind­ed­ness of small chil­dren (and some large ones), the fear­less­ness, resource­ful­ness, and suc­cess in berry find­ing make us love Mini Rab­bit. We love Mini Rab­bit more than cake.

The Tale of Benjamin BunnyBeat­rix Potter’s Ben­jamin Bun­ny also want­ed adven­ture. And when he finds his cousin Peter, wrapped in a ban­dana because he lost his clothes in Mr. McGregor’s gar­den (Mr. McGre­gor has used them to dress his scare­crow) Ben­jamin sug­gests they go back to the gar­den. Peter is not fond of that idea but can’t say no to his cousin. In the gar­den Peter gets his clothes back, a lit­tle shrunk. The two bun­nies find onions, which they wrap in the ban­dana. They’re about to leave when the gar­den cat sur­pris­es them. They take cov­er under a bas­ket, which the cat decides to sit on — for five hours! Final­ly Old Mr. Ben­jamin Bun­ny strolls by, quick­ly goes from fence to gar­den, dis­patch­es the cat, uses a switch on young Ben­jamin and Peter, and takes charge of the onions. All ends well, except for a puz­zled Mr. McGre­gor who can’t fig­ure out how his cat got locked in the green­house, from the outside!

Creepy CarrotsIn Creepy Car­rots, Jasper Rab­bit has more adven­ture than he wants. Jasper loved car­rots. “Jasper couldn’t get enough car­rots,” espe­cial­ly the car­rots in Crack­en­hop­per Field. One night, “Jasper was about to help him­self to a … snack … when he heard it. The soft … sin­is­ter … tunk­tunk­tunk of car­rots creeping…”

And that is just the begin­ning. He sees car­rots in the shed, in the bath­room, in his room. He hears “ter­ri­ble, car­roty breath­ing.” Jasper decid­ed “Creepy car­rots were real and they were com­ing for him!”

Jasper “hatch­es a plan.” He gath­ers sup­plies (which include an exca­va­tor) and begins to build a wall around the car­rot field. When he fin­ish­es the wall he is final­ly relaxed and hap­py. No more creepy car­rots. But the car­rots are hap­pi­er. The wall that keeps them in keeps Jasper out.

This sto­ry is so much fun. The lan­guage is a romp — “the soft … sin­is­ter … tunk of car­rots breath­ing.” We don’t real­ly know what Jasper is see­ing in his bed­room, bath­room, and shed. There is plen­ty of orange. He might be mis­tak­en about the car­rots. On the oth­er hand, it does seem like the car­rots have had a plan. We love the not-know­ing of the sto­ry and the twist at the end when Jasper turns out to be, if not an unre­li­able nar­ra­tor, an unknow­ing nar­ra­tor — and we espe­cial­ly love Jasper on the exca­va­tor dig­ging the moat.

Not a Book about BunniesIn Not a Book About Bun­nies Aman­da Henke gives cen­ter stage to Por­cu­pine because, as Por­cu­pine says, “There are lots of books about bun­nies. And hard­ly any about por­cu­pines.” Por­cu­pine pro­ceeds to tell read­ers how new-born por­cu­pines, called por­cu­pettes, are soft and fuzzy and not at all prick­ly. When they grow up and have quills, they are quite “Spike-tac­u­lar,” which Por­cu­pine demon­strates with a big quil­ly Ba-Poof! (And who would­n’t want to read Ba-Poof out loud?) Through­out the book we see Rab­bit watch­ing in the back­ground, even though Por­cu­pine keeps insist­ing that this is NOT a Book about bunnies.

Hop off the page please,” Por­cu­pine says. “I bet there is a fluffle of bun­ny fans near­by just wait­ing for you to be puff-a-rif­ic.” When Bun­ny final­ly gets to explain that being fluffy and adorable is bor­ing and that Bun­ny wants to be bristly and dan­ger­ous and have thrills and adven­tures like Por­cu­pine, Por­cu­pine still insists, “This is NOT a book about BUNNIES!”

I KNOW!” Bun­ny says, “It’s about you, Por­cu­pine.” And Bun­ny knows just the place for the book. The final spread shows the two new friends shar­ing the book togeth­er at the local library.

Anna Davis­court’s art is as live­ly as the text, with warm col­ors and dia­logue bal­loons. Read this book for the fun lan­guage, the appeal­ing art, and the deli­cious­ly fun­ny sto­ry. Read it because it is a book about por­cu­pines (NOT bun­nies, except, well, one bun­ny) and ends in one of our favorite places: the library.

The Rabbit ListenedIn Cori Doer­rfeld’s The Rab­bit Lis­tened Tay­lor builds some­thing new and amaz­ing with blocks … until a squall of fright­ened birds flies across the page and “things came crash­ing down.” Tay­lor curls into a sad ball, and one by one the ani­mals offer advice. The chick­en sug­gests that they talk, talk, talk about it, but Tay­lor does­n’t feel like talk­ing. The Bear says, “I bet you feel so angry. Let’s shout about it!” But Tay­lor does­n’t feel like shout­ing, either. The ele­phant wants to fix things by remem­ber­ing how to rebuild the block struc­ture. The hye­na wants to laugh about it, the ostrich wants to pre­tend it did­n’t hap­pen. Ani­mal after ani­mal offers sug­ges­tions, but Tay­lor does­n’t feel like doing any of them. When the ani­mals all leave and Tay­lor is alone again, a rab­bit moves clos­er and clos­er until it is lean­ing up com­fort­ing­ly against Tay­lor. After they sit awhile in silence, Tay­lor asks the rab­bit to stay, and the rab­bit lis­tens as Tay­lor talks, shouts, remem­bers, laughs, and goes through all the sug­ges­tions of the oth­er ani­mals while the rab­bit sim­ply lis­tens. Final­ly, heartache healed, Tay­lor plans to build some­thing again, and the rab­bit lis­tens as Tay­lor says, “It’s going to be amaz­ing,” Art shows an image of what Tay­lor plans to build — and it is, indeed, amazing.

Not only does this sto­ry work through var­i­ous respons­es to loss, dis­ap­point­ment, and grief in a non-didac­tic way, but the voic­es of the ani­mals are also great fun to read aloud — roar­ing like a bear, trum­pet­ing like an ele­phant, hiss­ing like a snake, laugh­ing like a hye­na. The book reminds us in the gen­tlest of ways that some­times the best friend­ship we can offer is sim­ply to be like a long-eared rab­bit and listen.

Bunny and TreeWe can’t resist one more rab­bit book, even though it has no words to read out loud and even though it is many pages longer than a tra­di­tion­al pic­ture book — Bun­ny and Tree by Hun­gar­i­an artist Balint Zsako. This book is won­der­ful­ly sat­is­fy­ing to us, like a com­bi­na­tion shad­ow pup­pet show and a dream.

In the first few spreads lumi­nous art shows a seed sprout­ing and grow­ing into a tree. When a fero­cious wolf attacks a group of bun­nies of many col­ors, one bun­ny runs under a tree, which takes on the shape of a mon­ster and fright­ens the wolf away. Dia­logue bal­loons with images show Bun­ny won­der­ing what has hap­pened to the oth­er bun­nies. Tree, who by now has “eyes,” holes in its branch­es just where eyes should be, responds (also with a pic­to­graph dia­logue bal­loon) that they should go find them. Bun­ny digs up Tree, puts Tree in a red wag­on, and the two set off in search of the oth­er bunnies.

Suc­ceed­ing spreads show Tree pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion as a loco­mo­tive and a sail­boat. When Bun­ny push­es Tree up a moun­tain, Bun­ny calls out for the oth­er bun­nies, but no one answers, and Bun­ny weeps. A pass­ing bird points Bun­ny toward two moun­tains, and Tree trans­forms into a plane to fly them there. When they arrive Bun­ny calls again for the oth­er bun­nies. And they come!

Togeth­er the rab­bits dig a hole, replant Tree, and nest among its roots. The tree pro­vides leafy food for the bun­nies — and these bun­nies are not too dream-like to poop!

The sto­ry ends with seeds falling and more trees grow­ing, a tree for each bun­ny in a joy­ous and col­or­ful com­mu­ni­ty. Words don’t do this book jus­tice, but it does­n’t need words for us to feel the strength of this unlike­ly friend­ship and delight in a com­mu­ni­ty of friends where rab­bits — and trees — come in all colors.

Rab­bits hop all through chil­dren’s books. And what’s not to like about them? Rab­bits are cud­dly, cute, some­times fun­ny — and show us the way to truths that might be too hard with­out long ears and round, fluffy tails. And rab­bits in books can’t raid our veg­etable gar­dens. We hope you’ll hop into the habit of rab­bit books this spring.

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Tina Hoggatt
Tina Hoggatt
3 months ago

Adorable! I loved this tour through bun­ny books by two of my favorite readers.

Laura Purdie Salas
3 months ago

Bun­nies are the best! I love WHEREVER YOU GO and THE RABBIT LISTENED. I know there’s the issue/school of thought about the pro­lif­er­a­tion of ani­mal char­ac­ters in pic­ture books reduc­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to show diverse human chil­dren. But I adore ani­mal char­ac­ters. And visu­al­ly, I’d much rather look at ani­mals than humans :>) When we were in Scot­land a cou­ple of years ago, we went to the Beat­rix Pot­ter Gar­den in Dunkeld. Such a treat! Your love­ly roundup evoked lots of mem­o­ries and pon­der­ings, plus a few more addi­tions to my tbr shelf…thanks!

2 months ago

I request­ed Bun­ny and Tree. My 7 year old grand­son loved it. He took it home to share with his brothers!