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The Gingerbread Rabbit Hardcover – January 21, 2003
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Mary's mother has a surprise for her--a delicious gingerbread rabbit. But the real surprises start when this cookie comes to life! The raisin-eyed rabbit, still uncooked on the counter, bemoans his fate to the paring knife, mixing bowl, and rolling pin, when they warn him that nothing has ever escaped from the kitchen without being eaten. When the rabbit spies Mary's mother, just back from the grocery store, a "giant" with "dozens of tremendous shining white teeth the size of a grizzly bear's," he realizes he hasn't a chance. Much to the mother's surprise, her flat, doughy creation makes a run for it! But she wants the gingerbread rabbit for her daughter so much, she races right after him. Garth Williams, illustrator of Charlotte's Web and The Cricket in Times Square captures the chase perfectly with his magical pen-and-ink sketches. Readers will follow breathlessly as the gingerbread rabbit narrowly escapes the guiles of a wily fox, and is finally rescued by an actual rabbit and his wife, who take him into their home to live happily ever after eating lettuce, carrots, and watercress.
This gentle story of a mother's fervent love for her only daughter, and the comical, suspenseful adventures of her rabbit cookie is carefully spun in Jarrell's flawless, slightly tongue-in-cheek prose. A jauntier inanimate rabbit-comes-to-life story than Margery Williams's The Velveteen Rabbit, and a more complex tale than The Gingerbread Man, The Gingerbread Rabbit is a classic read-aloud that youngsters will clamor for again and again. (Ages 5 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) received the National Book Award for his book of poems The Woman at the Washington Zoo. His children's book The Animal Family was named a Newbery Honor Book, and his translation of The Three Sisters was produced by The Actors Studio Theatre.
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This is essentially the story of a loving mother who crafts the perfect gingerbread rabbit as a present for her daughter, a rabbit so perfect that he comes to life. As he lays there fearfully pondering his existence, and ultimately his fate - being that he's made of gingerbread and is meant to be a confectionery treat - he becomes engaged in conversation with the various kitchen utensils who've witnessed many a human feeding before. What ensues is a ridiculously funny conversation guaranteed to entertain any young child, and better yet - any adult who is reading this to a young child.
The rabbit, of course, succeeds in escaping his harrowing situation, and the mother follows in a wild chase through the forest, where they both meet with a squirrel, a fox, and eventually the story comes full-circle when the gingerbread rabbit meets up with the very rabbit that inspired his creation. The story ends well for all involved... with the possible exception of the wily old fox.
The illustrations, for me, have that nostalgic Garth Willliams feel to them. They authentically capture the suspense, humor, and sweetness of the story. The story itself was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. I will certainly seek out more of Randall Jarrell's books for my children, especially those illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I am surprised that Jarrell is not a better known children's author, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who comes across the listing for it. Of all the thousands (I'm not kidding - we're library hounds) of children's books I've read in the past few of years, this one would easily earn a spot in my top twenty-odd favorites.
Randall Jarrell was known for his satiric wit, and indeed he was a literary critic of some note. That edge is evident even in his children's books. Here he endows his anthropomorphic characters with a subversive quality which approaches the Cat of Seussian proportions.
> "A giant!" said the gingerbread rabbit. "A giant that's going to cook me alive!"
> "To COOK you!" said the other rabbit [in reality a fox]. "What an absurd--that
> is to say, what an atrocious thing to do!"
Later, the mother entreats the fox to help her plan a surprise for her daughter. The fox exhibits an almost Paul Lynde level of snark in his suggestion: "Why don't you just hide behind the door and jump out and say BOO! at her when she comes in? That would be a real surprise."
Had The Gingerbread Rabbit been published forty years later, during this New Golden Age of children's literature, Jarrell might have gained wide acclaim in this genre. (He posthumously won a Newbery Honor for The Animal Family.) Certainly, Jarrell's humor puts him in league with Mo Willems,Jon Klassen, and Lane Smith.
> Squirrel: "Promise me you won't eat him!"
> Mother: "Why, of course I won't eat him. Do you think I'm a cannibal?"
Like the best kid lit, this fantasy educates as it entertains.
> Big brown (real) rabbit: "I don't believe in giants. And I don't believe in
> going in holes, either--not till I've made sure what's inside."
The Gingerbread Rabbit belongs in every child's home. It has everything going for it: adventure, sweet-but-not-saccharin ending, loving parent, laugh-out-loud funny.
> "What's gingerbread? What does it taste like?" asked the fox. "Meat?"
> "Oh, no," said the mother. "It's more like vegetables."
> "Vegetables!" exclaimed the fox. "To think that I got all out of breath running
> after a vegetable!"
> "Running after a vegetable?" repeated the mother.
> "A fox has got to live too."
It may be forty years too late for the author, but it's not too late for you.
Pictures by Garth Williams, who was one of the most important children's book artists of the mid-20th century, and who may have been inspired here by early iterations of the Pillsbury Doughboy.