a list of…five hoppity-skip books bouncing with bunnies

Little White Rabbit, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

The little white rabbit hopping through the pages of this book has a head full of wonderings and a delightful imagination.  His world is full of beauty — lush spring-green grass, towering fir trees, dainty butterflies — and all these lovely things spark questions:  What would it feel like to be green?  Or tall?  Or to flutter through the air? 

Henkes’ text is nicely thrifty, while his illustrations are lavish with sunny color and charm, from full page glimpses of the white bunny hoppiting along through meadows and forests, to double-page spreads of his imaginative scenarios.  We see him as a green-furred bunny being greeted by green frogs and green turtles, or as an unmoving rock, or a giant rabbit peeking over tree tops.  Great fun.

In the end, bunny’s adventures take him into slightly-scary territory so he hustles back home, where he doesn’t even have to wonder who loves him, because it’s oh-so-clear his mommy does.  Very tender Runaway-Bunny-esque ending.  A 2011 book, that will be very appealing for little lap-readers

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, written by Cressida Cowell, illustrated by Neal Layton

Have you met spunky Emily Brown?  She is typically gadding about on some wildly imaginative adventures, and this story is no exception.

Emily Brown’s dear companion is an old gray rabbit named Stanley.  They like to be about such ventures as exploring outer space, motorcycling across the Sahara, deep-sea diving…you know the sort of thing…so that through the years, Stanley has grown, well…a bit shabby and floppy.  But he likes it that way.

At any rate, one day Emily hears a knock at her door and lo and behold it’s a messenger from the Queen!  The Queen, it seems, has taken notice of Stanley and wants him for herself.  She offers a brand new plush teddy in exchange.  Well!  Emily Brown has no intention of parting with Stanley, tells the messenger that in no uncertain terms, and thinks that is that.

But the Queen is very, very persistent.  And when Emily continues to refuse her generous offers, the Queen actually sends her special commando team in to steal Stanley!  Dreadful!   How Emily Brown retrieves the miserable Stanley, and how she offers the Queen a bit of Velveteen Rabbit flavor advice, and how things end happily for one and all…you will have to read for yourself.

Brilliant story.  Brilliant illustrations.  Brilliant variations in font.  You get the message:  the whole thing is brilliant! 

Marshmallow, story and pictures by Clare Turlay Newberry

Oliver is a pampered gray cat who lives with Miss Tilly in lovely quietness.  His life of order and ease is swiftly changed, however,  when Miss Tilly brings home..a tiny, adorable, baby bunny.

Well.  Adorable to Miss Tilly.  Frightening to Oliver!  What in the world is this little jumpity thing?!  Its name is Marshmallow.   Soon Miss Tilly is feeding it carrots and oats, fixing up a cozy little bed, and writing poetry in praise of bunnies!  Hmm.  When Oliver boldly creeps up on Marshmallow to spring on the little white fluffball, Miss Tilly scolds him and separates the two of them.  But, one day when Miss Tilly is away, Oliver manages to open the door between the two rooms and the two of them are face to face. 

Before Oliver has a chance to pounce, though, Marshmallow moves in for a kiss and a snuggle!  And much to Miss Tilly’s surprise, the two of them settle on being sweet friends henceforth.

This is a very sweet story, which Ms. Newberry declares is all true; every word.  There is definitely a ring of authenticy in the details of Marshmallow’s bunny behaviors and Oliver’s cat attitudes.  The illustrations, which won a Caldecott Honor in 1943, are exquisite, soft charcoal drawings with just a smudge of apricot blush.  Newberry’s bunny poems add an extra nice touch in the midst of the story.

Bunny Days, story and pictures by Tao Nyeu

Introducing six plump, busy bunnies, two well-meaning but oblivious goats, and one tenderhearted and extremely capable bear.  Mix them all together and you get three oh-dear-me mishaps precipitated by the goats, occurring to the bunnies, solved by the bear.  And oodles and oodles of whimsical fun!

There are three episodes in Bunny Days.  In the first, Mr. Goat is merrily driving along in his tractor while the bunnies enjoy the sunshine and flowers of the countryside.  But…SPLOOT!  The tractor hits a muddy patch, and now six little bunnies are covered with mud.  Not to worry.  Bear happens to have a lovely washing machine there in the meadow, and with a little suds on the delicate cycle, some clothespins and a clothesline in the fresh breeze, the bunnies are fluffed and fresh and ready for more adventures.

Which they have, and which involve vacuum cleaners, giant fans, hedge trimmers, a sewing machine, and a little cake and tea to boot!

Tao Nyeu’s sunny illustrations are graphic eye-candy!  Apple green, apricot, and robin’s egg blue; just the right mix of cheerful pattern and clean line.  With very simple lines she brings a peck of personality to the busybody bunnies, absent-minded goats, and patient, unflappable bear.  You provide the oohs, ahs, giggles, and smiles. 

The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter

Can’t have a bunny blog without the granddaddy of all bunny books!

There are heaps of Peter Rabbit paraphernalia out there: videos, plush animals, tea sets and bedroom slippers, not to mention the many simplified versions of the story.  Please!  Do not settle for anything less than the original. 

I think you know the story.  Angelic sisters picking blackberries.  Naughty Peter gobbling vegetables.  Farmer McGregor wielding wicked farm implements.  Entanglements.  Near misses.  Watering cans.   Mad dashes.  And then…ignominy and camomile tea for Peter but bread and milk and blackberries for the sisters.  This is exciting stuff which doesn’t pull any punches.  Dad’s been baked in a pie, mind you!  But it’s just this quality which makes it so honestly engaging for children.  I still remember reading this for the first time to my very young son who listened intently, and commented at the end, “I really don’t think Peter was that  naughty.”  Being an adventurous guy himself, he definitely had sympathy for Peter’s difficulties, and then a rotten supper to boot.

Besides the perfection of a child-sized book, the original version has a lovely vocabulary and cadence which are worthy of a child’s mind.  Accept no substitute!  It’s actually a longish story, so it requires a patient listener.  Give younger children Miss Moppet and wait awhile with Peter Rabbit if you must, but do not abridge! 

Here are the Amazon links for all these bunny books:
Little White Rabbit
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
Bunny Days
The Tale of Peter Rabbit: Commemorative Edition (Potter)