It’s often quite difficult to find excellent seasonal picture books simply because the window of opportunity for sales is short and publishers tend to blast the shelves with quantity rather than quality. Also, few children’s writers and illustrators feel their creative juices flow when the subject matter is snake rustlers from Ireland and scenes of crucifixion (sorry Mel.) Of course, there are exceptions: Christmas, for example, inspires many beautiful picture books each year, and the better ones tend to sell throughout the year. When I was a bookseller, I always kept a row of Christmas books in stock, especially perennial bestsellers like The Polar Express and…um…mostly The Polar Express. Easter, on the other hand, can be a challenge. Christ or Bunnies? Personally, I’m not drawn to children’s books about public executions, Jesus or otherwise, and religious books in general leave me cold, but there is a place for this type of book at Easter. It’s not all about chocolate, apparently.
Two books speak beautifully to the religious aspects of Easter: The Tale of Three Trees (by Angela Hunt, illus by Tim Jonke) and The Easter Story (by James King, illus by Gennady Spirin.) There may be others, but from what I’ve seen, genre titles tend toward the godawful, at least as far as the art is concerned. The best way to approach seasonal books is at an angle. Anything about rabbits and chicks is by association,
an Easter book. The theme of resurrection can be interpreted as rebirth, and by extension a book about spring is an Easter book. Heck, everytime I eat a package of those lovely Cadbury mini-eggs, I wonder, “why isn’t there a picture book about you?”
Last Easter, bunnies were all over this blog. As with my Christmas list, I hope to add many other rabbit, chick, spring, egg, and if pleasing to the eye, religious selections to my Easter list as these books present themselves. Until then, here is a small serving of bunnycentric titles for your Easter enjoyment, best served with a steaming mug of coffee and the freshly dipped head of a Mr Fruit n’ Nut~
Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth by Marie Louise Gay
Excerpt from my review~Wandering around this drained landscape the other day, thinking about my next post, one
thing came to mind (OK, two things, but anti-depressants require a prescription): I needed to immerse myself in something juicy and colourful, like the newest book by Marie-Louise Gay, Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth, for instance. Imagine your computer screen in the dim setting, just before sleep mode. Now imagine tapping a key. Suddenly, the screen is infused with light and colour. To view the art of Marie-Louise Gay is like someone tapping us out of some dimmed state of consciousness into a bejeweled and bewitched landscape.
The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett
Excerpt from my review~ Leonardo Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician who, in 1202, became interested in the reproduction of rabbits. His question: under ideal circumstances, if you begin with one male and one female rabbit, how many rabbits will you have in a year? He was 27 at the time, which for that pestilence-ridden era was middle-aged. You’d think he would have better things to worry about than the sex life of bunnies. I’m no mathematician, but after some research I can assure you this question has implications far beyond the comprehension of my flabby and underused left brain. Suffice to say his bunny quandary inspired British author and illustrator, Emily Gravett to write and illustrate the very lovely and delightful, The Rabbit Problem. No need to dust off your calculator. Just enjoy….
Esterhazy: The Rabbit Prince by Irene Dische, illus. Michael Sowa. Excerpt
from my review~His lordship Michael Paul Anton Maria, PrincEsterhazy the 12,792nd of Bunnimore and Burrow of Austria, Earl of Snack, Count of Cucumbria, Cabbage Head and Leekfielt, Commander of Welsh Rabbits, or Esterhazy for short, is from an aristocratic, but diminutive family of rabbits in Austria. In an effort to increase the size of the oft-ridiculed family, the grandfather decides to send his grandchildren abroad, to marry ‘very big rabbits, and then their children will be just the right size’….
The Rabbits by John Marsden, illus. Shaun Tan
Excerpt from my review~The Rabbits is either a story of bunnies gone bad, or an allegory about imperialism leading to cultural and environmental decimation. As the Easter season approaches, I hesitate to say anything that might compromise the delivery of a Mr Fruit n’ Nut on Sunday morning, therefore I’m going with the allegorical angle. It’s safer that way, and let’s face it, forests…cultures…they come, they go, but chocolate is forever….
Big Rabbit’s Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu
Excerpt from my review~Who can resist a big, pink book with a
disgruntled bunny on the front? Open the pages, and you meet the Bad Mood, who looks like an expelled fur ball, following Big Rabbit around, eating his cactus, messing up his closet, and wreaking havoc with his life. Big Rabbit calls his friend Squirrel for help, but when Squirrel doesn’t answer the phone, he figures it’s because of his Bad Mood. No one wants to be around him, which is not an unrealistic assessment of the situation, judging by my own experience….
On Tumbledown Hill by Tim Wynne-Jones, illus., by Dušan Petričić
Excerpt from my review~In Tim Wynne-Jone’s On Tumbledown Hill, an artist is repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to paint plein air by 26 unruly monsters, who are, “much bigger than me and stronger, too, with arms that are longer and thicker through.” The monsters, depicted as children, play and fight and wreak havoc with the painters ability to create. This is a GREAT excuse. Wish I’d thought of it…
Harvey by Hervé Bouchard, illus., by Janice Nadeau (OK, this is a stretch…but it does take place in Spring)
Excerpt from my review~Borrowing from the graphic novel tradition, Harvey is nevertheless in a class all its own. Like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, it is a very particular world that Harvey occupies, but less fantastical. This is a recognizable town (albeit 40 years ago judging by the beehive hairstyles), and a recognizable situation. Harvey is a young French Canadian lad who loses his father one early spring day, and attempts to make sense of the grief swirling around him, using the tools available to an imaginative boy. He is obsessed with the movie The Incredible Shrinking Man, a film which permeates his entire world, overtaking it at one point when invisibility seems the only reasonable response to an altered life. Harvey is a journal of that day in early spring…
Lastly, a lovely spring book from 1949 that will soon be reviewed in this blog~The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss, illustrations by Marc Simont.
Here’s wishing your Easter is a happy day, and apologies to Albrecht Dürer for vandalizing his Hare.
The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Hunt, illustrations by Tim Jonke. Published by Lion Publishing, 1989
The Easter Story by King, James, illustrations by Gennady Spirin. Published by Henry Holt, 1999
The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss, illustrations by Marc Simont. Published by Harper & Row, 1949