by Greenwillow Books
An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
As I have mentioned in the past, our library is currently under construction and as such has moved to a temporary location. This location is far too small, but it is better than no library at all. Story time is held in a corner of this new space tucked in between the non-fiction children's books and the juvenile literature. Occasionally while I am sitting with my daughter listening to the librarian read a story or introduce a song I will glance around and see a book I want to examine. Last week Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan caught my eye. I'm a sucker for bunny rabbit stories (but more on that later) so I added the book to our pile to borrow and read it over the weekend, immediately fell in love with the muted watercolor illustrations.
The illustrations are by no means Beatrix Potter-like. They are more dream-like in their depiction than they are real life-like. Still, the fit perfectly with the type of story that Emmaline and the Bunny is and I couldn't help, but have my heart melt at the sight of the little bunny with notch in his right ear and two very big and very dark eyes.
Emmaline and the Bunny is the story of Emmaline, a little girl who lives in a very tidy town called Neatasapin (neat-as-a-pin). Unfortunately Emmaline is NOT a tidy child. She likes to hop like a bunny, jump in water puddles until she's sopping wet, and cry out words like "Hoopalala!" and "Dinglederrydee!" But the trouble all begins when Emmaline decides she would like a bunny rabbit for a pet.
Orson Oliphant, the mayor of Neatasapin is a very tidy, very unhappy man who had banished all things untidy, dirty, or otherwise wild from the town limits including bunny rabbits.
Suddenly one day Emmaline sees a wild rabbit and follows him through a hole, much like Alice in Wonderland, and discovers a place called Untidy where all things dirty and wild live -- be they animals, weeds or dirt. Here she becomes friends with the rabbit whom she names "No More Only" and learns that in order to continue her friendship she must return home and create an "invitation" -- not a card, but a place that invites the bunny to live in comfort and peace. This means dirt, untidiness, and permitting things like weeds and bushes to grow. Is such a thing possible in a town like Neatasapin? What about Mayor Oliphant?
I really enjoyed this little book and there were several things I loved in addition to the aforementioned water color illustrations.
For starters, I loved the simplicity of this story. It's the type of story that could easily be read aloud to a young child or enjoyed by a new reader (it was published for readers 9-12). There are chapters, but they are all short. For an adult this story could take less than an hour to read, but its brevity and simpleness doesn't detract from creative and almost magical setting.
At the same time the setting of Emmaline and the Bunny is a little bizarre. A town where everything is tidy and dirt is not permitted? A man like Orson Oliphant who yells and stamps his feet and orders everyone around? A place where people want to live, but must remain quiet, unemotional and clean as a whistle? No such place could ever exist in the real-world, but that's what is so magical about this story. It's not supposed to be real to life. Even the writing style doesn't exactly follow proper grammar. The entire story reads as a story one might hear told aloud. It is a story that one might hear a child telling. And it is a fun read.
Perhaps a big reason that I enjoyed this little book has something to do with the fact I have always loved rabbits (as mentioned above). As a young girl, and over the course of ten years, I had my own pet rabbits, five to be exact (Whitey, Snowball, Flowers, Shiner, and Mocha). I loved my bunny rabbits. And even today, decades later I can still identify with Emmaline's love for these little creatures with their long ears, their cute little hop hop hopping, and their and fur so soft and warm it reminds one of "tickles and bedtime hugs" and "summer clouds."
One last thing I liked about this book has nothing to do with the story, but everything to do with the book. Emmaline and the Bunny was published in 2009 by Greenwillow Books whose purpose is to publish only books that are "green." Green meaning not that the book is the color green (although Emmaline and the Bunny does have a green book cover) but that their books are published on recycled paper and with recycled materials. Emmaline and the Bunny is a delightful size (measuring roughly 7"x6"), the paper feels like real paper and yet trees, water, and energy were conserved even in the making of this first edition. What a great idea! I am all for recycling. It is the perfect example of practicing conversation. From the start of time people have been commanded to take proper care of the earth and everything on it -- plants, minerals, animals, and fellow human-beings I love when this is carried out in practical ways.
Emmaline and the Bunny is the second book by author, Katherine Hannigan. Her first book, Ida B... and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster and (Possibly) Save the World is on my "look for" list during a future trip to the library. I enjoy Ms. Hannigan's imaginative story-telling and look forward to sharing her books with my daughter in a few years.