39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Rabbit has a cunning plan,
This review is from: My Friend Rabbit (Caldecott Medal Book) (Hardcover)
There are some books in the world that you can flip through in the bookstore and get a pretty good idea of the plot and characters. Then there are books like "My Friend Rabbit". Roughly a year ago I wanted to know what all the "My Friend Rabbit" fuss was about. I mean, this book was a 2003 Caldecott Award winner after all. I wanted to see why. So I went to my local independent bookstore and flipped through it. I flipped and flipped and was baffled by the heaping helpfuls of praise it had received. My haphazard flipping didn't reveal anything particularly interesting or original in the story. Fast forward a year and I've finally taken the time to sit down and read, "My Friend Rabbit" in its entirety (a process which took me all of 93 seconds). Suddenly I understood why it was so beloved. Though an incredibly simple plot, story, and set of characters, "My Friend Rabbit" is a remarkably beautiful tale of two woodland creatures and their plane related misadventures. It's simple in words and complex in visuals.
As Mouse points out from the beginning, "My friend Rabbit means well. But whatever he does, wherever he goes, trouble follows". That's Mouse's nice way of saying that Rabbit is an all-time screw-up. In this particular outing, Rabbit has managed to get Mouse's brand new airplane (in which Mouse fits like a furry little Lindbergh) stuck in a tree sans Mouse. Quick as a wink Rabbit's off with a, "Not to worry, Mouse. I've got an idea!" thrown over his shoulder. Before you know it he's tugged, dragged, carried, and cajoled a wide variety of animals to stand on one another under the offending tree. Mouse is just able to reach the wing of his plane when the entire group comes crashing to the ground. Rabbit is in big big trouble. Fortunately the plane is now free and two go happily off into the sky. That is, until Rabbit steers them a tad off course. The last words in the book are a too familiar, "Not to worry, Mouse. I've got an idea". Readers can guess what'll happen next.
Ho hum, you say. I've seen stories of this ilk before. I won't contest that. Maybe you've seen a dozen similarly ilked picture books in your day. Maybe you're an old hat in the clumsy-rabbit-gets-in-and-out-of-scrapes genre of storytelling. This might all be the case. But you have never, I say I say, NEVER seen anything like this colorful concoction of animalistic cajolery. First of all, the book in and of itself is beautiful to look at. Filled with hand-colored relief prints spanning a rainbow of different colors, the story looks like a series of cheery rounded woodblock images more than anything else. Rohmann's characters are beautifully expressive and original. Each animal has its own personality and individual traits. From the somewhat perturbed goose to the blissfully unaware hippo, they all act, look, and react in different ways. Rohmann isn't afraid to make use of every inch of page space either. Sometimes an image on one page will be of just rabbit pulling on a trunk. The next two page spread is then completely filled with the elephant as Rabbit hops away for more animalia. Pictures will suddenly becomes vertical as suits the story (as when they're standing on one another to reach the tree). There are even pictures that display nothing more than impending doom. When the animals fall from their tower you get a brief image of the baby geese that didn't participate in the Babel-like construction running for cover, just before the creatures hit. And visual humor has never been so beautifully realized as in this tale. There is a shot of every single animal (save mouse and the still smiling hippo) glaring at Rabbit with undisguised malice after their unintentional plummet. Rabbit, who up until this time has had eyes that were simple black dots, looks straight at the viewer with the whites of his eyes very very visible. It's one of those pictures that says a million different things and could only have been drawn in the last ten years. After all, how many picture books can you name off the top of your head where the hero stares at the viewer in fear?
Not that it really matters, but I fully support the fact that "My Friend Rabbit" won all the awards that it did. Books of its nature are rarities. This tale is funny, touching, beautiful, and engagingly constructed. It is colorful. It is well-thought out. It is a classic in the purest sense of the word. It is a wonderful adventure, a touching tale, and a great great book. I praise it with all the praising strength with which I am endowed. Buy it immediately.