Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mr. Rabbit

I found the repetitive nature of the text in Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow, along with the more formal, stilted language, to be a part of this books charm as an adult.  As a child, however, I did not like this book.  Therefore, I consider it a minor miracle that it is still sitting on my shelves today.  As a child, I was impatient with the book.  Their conversation was stilted and I knew exactly what each participant was going to say before they said it, so why was I reading it?  I also was very frustrated by the fact that the little girl was only choosing fruit for her basket.  Were there no flowers to be found?  Of course, there were.  There were flowers on practically every page in fact.
Even as a child, I was annoyed by the inconsistencies and inaccuracies of the book.  Somehow they managed to find apples, pears, bananas and grapes, all growing within the woods they wandered.  Well, actually, they found the bananas on someone’s leftover picnic blanket.  On the blanket were dishes and a wine bottle and two not-so-lovely looking bananas.  Which they took.  Really?  Because even as a child, I called that stealing.  And even as a child, I was offended by the fact that someone had just left their entire picnic leftovers on the ground.  That was called littering.

We never actually saw where the rabbit found the grapes, but I didn’t really believe that somewhere within those woods were also some grapevines.  And I was deeply offended by the fact that the grapes were an example of blue.  In what world?  As a child, I wondered why they didn’t pick blueberries.  Why were grapes easier to find than blueberries?  Everyone knew that blueberries were blue and grapes were purple.  Besides which, by that point, I was annoyed with the whole fruit excursion.  I wanted the girl to pick some flowers for her mom and I was really tired of hearing how her mom liked birds in trees.

It’s true. I definitely did not appreciate this book as a child.  As an adult, I still find the book to be annoying.  When I re-read it, I shook my head at the abandoned picnic and mentally rolled my eyes when we got to the blue grapes. 

This book originally came out in 1962 and I think it provides an interesting view into the types of books that were being published at the time.  There was clearly no real checks-and-balances for logic and accuracy.  The illustrator was Maurice Sendak, which was not at all surprising to me, as his style was recognizable.  For some reason, it’s never been a style I truly appreciated.  As a child, I did not like the close-up pictures of the little girl and the rabbit.  They seemed distorted and wrong.  The further away the girl was and the less we were able to see of her features, the more natural she seemed.  The rabbit never seemed natural, given he stood upright like a man. 

Overall, I do not think this book would be published again in our times.  In fact, I am surprised it was re-released in 1990.  I simply do not think it holds up against the much higher expectations we have for children’s books and literature today.

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