Picture Book Month‘s theme of the day today is Rabbits and I couldn’t have two more different books to share with you.
Do your kids ever go through phases of saying “rude” words? I think most parents will have experienced their darling little children delighting in transgressing by exclaiming words they know to be “naughty”. My otherwise angelic children certainly love the thrill that comes from saying such powerful words as “bum”, “fart” and (most outrageously of all) “winkie”.
Poo Bum by Stephanie Blake, hot off the press only yesterday, captures this experience perfectly. A young rabbit appears to be able to say nothing other than “Poo Bum”, whatever his family ask him. Time to get up? Poo Bum. Lunch time? Poo Bum. Bath time? Poo Bum. You know how this goes.
With a Belloc-esque turn in the middle of the book (we all know naughty children will end up being eaten, if not by a lion, then by some other predator at some point), it is actually the the young bunny who has the last laugh. Children love books which reflect and validate their experience of the world and this one is sure to make them giggle (but it definitely won’t clean up their language).
The illustrations in Poo Bum are very simple, but brilliant and bold. The use of strong, saturated colour pairs perfectly with the slightly ballsy text. The cartoony characters have a naivety about them which young children will recognise as something from their own world, just like the story.
Given the theme today for Picture Book Month, the rabbity-ness of the book got me thinking. Animals in picture books have always been used as a proxy for exploring human emotions and experience and had Poo Bum had been drawn with people rather than animals, I doubt it would have been as funny and clever as it turns out to be with rabbits.
Toilet humour in children’s books isn’t for everyone, but this is a wickedly funny book which captures a parent/child experience in all its absurdity. Not one I feel I could read out in class, but I know my kids can’t get enough of me reading it at home.
Tom Crean’s Rabbit: A True Story from Scott’s Last Voyage written by Meredith Hooper and illustrated by Bert Kitchen is an equally remarkable book, but an entire universe away from Poo Bum.
Tom Crean’s Rabbit presents a small vignette from Captain Scott’s last journey to Antarctica, in 1910. On board was sailor Tom Crean who had brought with him a rabbit. As Crean looks for a cosy nook on board the Terra Nova for his rabbit to snuggle down in, we are shown around this amazing ship. We are given glimpses of life on board as the crew ready the ship for a Christmas celebration, which is made even more special by the birth of 17 bunnies on Christmas Day itself.
Based on diary entries written by the crew of the Terra Nova, this book is part non-fiction, part picture book. The story such as it is, is quite slight, but it does allow for an interesting introduction to life on board a ship exploring one of the most remote and dangerous parts of the world over 100 years ago.
It’s fascinating to see just how much animal life there was on board the ship (in addition to rabbits, there’s a cat, a parrot, a team of dogs and a stable full of ponies!) and Kitchen’s illustrations capture the awe inspiring vistas with ice floes, whales and cold, cold air. The final pages of the book include brief author’s notes on the facts behind the story, but I feel the book would have been enriched by a little more commentary on the story and images, not least, why was there are rabbit on board at all? Was it simply a flight of fancy by Crean? Was the rabbit destined for the pot?
Tom Crean’s Rabbit is a Christmas story with a difference, obviously useful if your kids are interested in exploration but also good for reading and remembering those who are far from home at Christmas time.
My kids would love to have some rabbits as pets, but they couldn’t persuade me to get a real life bunny. Instead I showed them how to make their own bunny families, using beads, felt and a glue gun. With beads of three different sizes, and small pieces of felt cut out in the shape of ears and feet, M learned to carefully squeeze a little bit of glue onto the beads to stick them and the felt together, making sure the “head” bead was positioned so that the threading holes acted as eyes.
We got the idea for this activity here. The use of the glue gun and fairly precise nature of the gluing meant that this was an activity my eldest could do under supervision, but it wasn’t something my 4 year old could do. Despite it not be so young-child-friendly the glue gun was great to use as the beads stuck firmly very quickly (which wouldn’t have happened with PVA).
Once our colony of rabbits were ready they needed some downs to play in so we plundered moss growing on the pavement outside our street and created little landscapes in some gardening trays.
Rabbit music we love includes:
Activities to go with these books include:
I’m delighted to say you could win either of these books. All you need to do is leave me a comment on this post.
**The giveaway is now closed. It was won by Comment 43: Mary Preston**
Disclosure: I received a free copies of the books I’ve reviewed today from their publishers. I was under no obligation to review the books and I received no money for this post.