Friday 9 November 2012

Charlotte's Book of the Week - Rabbityness by Jo Empson (Child's Play International Ltd)

As we mentioned in our "The Flower" review, we simply could not choose between two books so we've rather slyly chosen a book each for "Book of the Week" this week. Again, this book came as a recommendation from Beth Cox (who is either going to develop a big head or a complex if we keep mentioning her but she is awesome!) after a discussion about a worry that inclusive books would be a bit 'grey and boring'.

The description 'grey and boring' couldn't be further from Rabbityness. Though it starts off fairly monochrome, with some lovely inky drawings of a Rabbit doing - well - rabbity things, it soon explodes into an ocean of colours as we discover that our rabbity friend loves doing unrabbity things too.

He paints, he dances beautifully, he plays music, and he soon fills the forest where he lives with beautiful colours and sounds.

It's infectious stuff so all the other rabbits soon discover that they love what he does too!

Then one day Rabbit disappears. No one can find him, all that is left is a deep, dark hole...

At this point in the book - when we first read it together - Charlotte stopped, and a look crossed her face that I'd never seen before. A look of absolute and complete sorrow. As parents we're probably quite used to seeing our children upset, crying, having tantrums - sometimes over the most trivial things, but I hadn't seen this - it was actually fairly upsetting and made me cuddle her close as we continued with the book.

I feel we're meandering into spoiler territory here so please - stop right now if you want to experience the book unsullied by our review or our opinions - but we should carry on and tell you that Rabbit doesn't just leave a deep dark hole - he leaves a legacy behind, a legacy of sharing his unrabbityness, his delicious infectious enthusiasm for colour and music and fun and laughter with his friends in the forest.

We've seen a few books that deal with loss and grief in a fairly rudimentary (and sometimes outright clumsy) fashion, but nothing that deals with it as delicately but also as triumphantly as Rabbityness. It is quite unlike anything we've come to expect from children's picture books but I'll let you into a secret - this is exactly the sort of thing that Child's Play do, and make it look so durned easy too.

Charlotte's best bit: The one frame where Rabbit is tucked up snugly having a snooze. So...rabbity!

Daddy's favourite bit: That moment where the book's tone momentarily changes and the impact (and I do mean impact) it had on Charlotte. Even when we re-read this, it had a similar effect - simply because to a child that feeling can be so wholly unfamiliar and seeing how she dealt with it was absolutely amazing.

(Kindly supplied to us for review by Child's Play International Ltd)