In the animal kingdom care of eggs, newborns and the littlest members of families is not limited to mothers. There are notable fathers. A single male lion, gorilla, or Arctic wolf guards entire large groups; prides, troops or packs. Some sandpiper females leave the nest once the eggs are laid (she lays more than one batch of eggs per season) and for weeks a male takes care of the eggs and baby birds. The same is true for Emperor penguins. The fathers carry a single egg on their feet, covering it with a brood pouch for warmth and protection. They do this without eating for two months. When the females return from hunting and feeding, the roles are reversed.
Truthfully the position of fathers in species is varied and fluctuates. In his newest release author illustrator David Ezra Stein takes a traditional lullaby giving it a paternal perspective. Hush, Little Bunny (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 22, 2019) is a soothing exploration of nature and nurturing as spring arrives.
Come, little bunny, don't be shy.
It's time to tell the snow goodbye.
A first scamper out-of-doors leaves the little bunny in tears. Papa is there to offer comfort. He assures the little one blue sky is coming and if it does not, there are tasty treats to be found.
When those treats are consumed, there's much more to do. A bunny's heart sings when it can roam freely in a field. If danger soars above, Papa knows what to do. He takes his precious child below that field cuddled in a cozy hole.
If the hidden space gets a bit snug, the duo can pop out again to the grassy landscape. Should a sudden shower begin to fall, shelter is found beneath blossoming branches. Fortunately, Papa has an answer when the situation shifts.
Tears may fall again, but fireflies brighten a broken heart. A bird sings as a sunset radiates across the horizon. Two bunnies, one big and one little, make their way home. Love endures in the spring. Love endures in every season.
As you read the phrases penned by David Ezra Stein a melody, unbidden, begins to accompany your reading. A rhyming word ends each one supplying a cadence not unlike the movements of rabbits. One phrase is repeated twice connecting this narrative to the traditional lullaby. Having Papa speak to his small child makes for a personal and participatory story. Here is a passage.
And if the afternoon brings showers,
we'll stay by a tree that's hung with flowers.
And when those flowers blow away,
we'll find some other bunnies and play.
On the front, nose to nose, eyes to eyes, smile to smile and paws to paws an adult rabbit and small bunny have our full attention (I know you are sighing.). The use of yellow, green and hues of blue hint of spring on this open and matching dust jacket and book case. To the left, on the back, amid a pale yellow-washed canvas, the bunny is hopping toward the spine through spring blooms. A ladybug decides to move, too.
A golden yellow covers the opening and closing endpapers. On the title page beneath the text the little one peers from underneath foliage at the remaining snow. All the images are rendered by David Ezra Stein in
mixed media on watercolor paper.
The size of the illustrations moves from double-page pictures to full-page illustrations loosely framed in black lines to full-page visuals in free-formed circular shapes. Some of the full-page images spread from edge to edge.
Delicate pastel shades reflective of the season are highlighted by loose black brush strokes. Tiny lines indicate fur and whiskers. It's wonderful how the placement of the characters' eyes, ears and body postures clearly convey their every mood. Due the perspective in each scene readers are fully engaged in each moment. They will want to touch the pictures. They will giggle, sigh and probably laugh out loud at the image depicting Papa and Little Bunny going home through the grass. The heavier matte-finished paper is perfect for David Ezra Stein's artwork.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page, edge to edge. The sun is setting turning the sky golden and spreading a similar glow across the countryside. A tree trunk frames the left side. Branches extend from the left; one arches across to the right side. Leafy vines with blossoms extend down from this branch. Under this branch is a small pond. On the back edge Papa and Little Bunny look into the water. Lily pads float. A tiny turtle rests on one. On the branch a blackbird raises its head to sing.
As soon as you read Hush, Little Bunny written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein you will want to read it again to and with someone else. This is a book to share one-on-one or with a group. It can promote discussions on how our parents show love, support and care. It could be paired with Good Day, Good Night, Dad By My Side, Gator Dad, The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits, How To Be A Bigger Bunny, and another David Ezra Stein book, Tad and Dad depending on whether your focus is fathers or rabbits. To make your story time every more engaging you might want to have some musical instruments available. I highly recommend this delightful title for your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about David Ezra Stein and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. At the publisher's website you can view interior images. David Ezra Stein has an account on Twitter. He shares process art in his Twitter feed. The publisher also has an activity guide.
Update: David Ezra Stein and this title are featured at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on June 16, 2019.