Let’s face it, there are a lot of good books about talking animals –Charlotte’s Web, the Freddy the Pig series, The Wind in the Willows, and Winnie-the-Pooh (I’m counting talking stuffed animals too). Now I’d like to add another book to the list. It doesn’t seem to get as much attention even though it won the Newberry Medal in 1945.
Lawson, Robert. New York: Viking, 1944. 128 pp.
Mother & Father Rabbit, Uncle Analdis, and Little Georgie are all a little anxious about the arrival of a new family to the abandoned house. The last owners were not good stewards of the land—especially the garden where the rabbits looked for food. Of course, there are more than just rabbits living on the hill—we meet deer, fox, squirrels, field mice, a woodchuck named Porkey, and a skunk named Phewie (I still can’t read that without a giggle).
This is a great read aloud for little ones—everything moves at a slow and gentle pace. There may be a few moments of anxiety—Georgie is chased by a dog, Willie the mouse falls into a rain barrel; they are resolved quickly so no one will be kept awake wondering what happens next. Little Georgie is hit by a car, but it happens “off camera” as it were—just the mention of screeching tires and an engine roaring off again. Georgie is quickly found by the new owners and tended to in the house. By this point it’s clear to the reader that they care for the little creatures on their property and everything will turn out all right, but Uncle Analdis is a crotchety old rabbit who worries his nephew is being tortured. In the end, the folks erect a St. Francis of Assisi statue in the garden and lay out food for the animals who in turn agree to protect the garden. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside (but I still cringe when I see a squirrel taking off with one of my green tomatoes).
Mr. Lawson wrote Rabbit Hill near the end of World War II and I’m sure his theme of “can’t we all just get along” was the hope of many. My copy was discarded by the Indianapolis Public Library.
You can find a list of all my Rescued Books here.