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Realistic Rabbits in Children’s Literature

By Emily Allgeyer

Pat the Bunny is a children's classic.  But what if the bunny doesn't want to be patted?  My bunnies are writing a book called Stop Trying to Pat Me and Give Me a Craisin.

Children's books are loaded with bunny rabbits.  Some of them are anthropomorphized humans, some of them are bunny-esque and some of them are just plain silly.

Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown's beloved classic, has one rabbit sitting sedately in a rocking chair and another one tucked into bed.  Where are the little bite marks on the rocking chair?  Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby are hilarious bunny-human toddler hybrids.  Miffy, the star of Dick Bruna's books,  is a bunny who goes to school, the park and the zoo.  She dresses up on Halloween willingly.  So where is all the pooping, chewing, sniffing, nose wagging action in children's storybooks?  Here are some titles.


While We Were Out, by Ho Baek Lee and originally published in Korea, is about a bunny whose humans go on an overnight trip.  The bunny's hutch is on the balcony, but the balcony door is unlocked.  She slips it open and hops into the apartment, where she can do all the things she never gets to do when the humans are home.  The bunny stretches out and watches a video, tries on the youngest daughter's clothes, and finds the roller skates.  They are far too big for her.  How does she manage to skate?  With chopsticks as ski poles!  The bunny falls asleep in the humans' bed.  In the morning she slips back onto the balcony so that the humans will never suspect a thing.  Or will they find the poops?
First published in 1942, Marshmallow by Clare Turlay Newberry is the story of a tiny baby bunny called Marshmallow.  Actually, it's the story of Oliver, the middle-aged cat who likes his quiet life and his meals on time.  One day his human, Miss Tilly, brings home a tiny baby bunny called Marshmallow.  Oliver is horrified at this other creature, having never met a rabbit, socially or otherwise.  Marshmallow misses his mother.  Miss Tilly sensibly separates the cat and the rabbit, because Oliver is having predatory thoughts.  Until the day when Oliver opens the door to the living room and finds Marshmallow running laps.  Oliver's tail twitches, he's about to pounce, and then Marshmallow sees him and rushes up to him, assuming that this other furry thing must be his mother or another close relation.  From then on Marshmallow and Oliver are friends, and the book ends with  the funniest picture of an adult rabbit and a cat spooning.  This book should not be missing from the rabbit shelf in your library (other people have a rabbit shelf in their library, right?). 
Margaret Wise Brown wrote over one hundred books for children, including the amazing but less than accurate, aforementioned Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.  Two other books she wrote about bunnies (out of at least twelve books featuring rabbits) are wild rabbit stories Home for a Bunny and Bunny's Noisy Book.  In Home for a Bunny, the bunny starts off with no home at all.  He walks down the road, asking a bird, a frog, and a gopher about their homes.  No, they tell him, he would fall out of the tree, he would drown, and the gopher's home is occupied  The bunny is sad, of course, until he meets another bunny.  Where does the bunny live?  Under a log.  The bunny moves in and together they snuggle in their bunny home.  Bunny's Noisy Book is about noise, but not from the bunny.  Margaret Wise Brown knew how quiet bunnies were.  The little bunny goes out to play and hears the rustling of leaves, the buzzing of bees, and then he yawns.  And what kind of noise does that make?
Less realistic than Marshmallow and While We Were Out is a hilarious book by Francisco Pittau.  Or maybe it is more realistic than the other books, because Perry Poops.  Perry is a rabbit who lives in a village with his friends: the pig, the goose and the cow.  And Perry poops.  Perry poops a trail of poops behind him wherever he goes that causes trouble for his friends, who have to learn that poop is neither jewelry nor food.  Perry poops so much that his friends put him in a gorge, but then they miss him.  So the pig, the goose and the cow go out to the gorge to bring Perry back to their village.  But when they arrive at the gorge, Perry's poops have filled it in and Perry is sitting on top of mountain of poop eating a carrot.    What can you do with a mountain of poop?  Go skiiing!  And what book is more realistic than the one about a mountain of rabbit poop?
Emily Allgeyer lives with four rabbits in Minneapolis, MN

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