Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Hopp-iness For All

As the days until Easter arrives are counted, I always remember the year I was gifted with a tiny black bunny.  It was given by my uncle as a prank on his older brother, but my dad rose to the occasion, making Midnight a wonderful rabbit home so she could enjoy life as best as possible.  For me, a child born in the Year of the Rabbit, there was no better gift.

Now, despite their love of everything I plant (nothing was spared this winter), my affection for these gentle but hungry creatures has not diminished.  Borrowing Bunnies: A Surprising True Tale Of Fostering Rabbits (Farrar Straus Giroux, February 12, 2019) written by Cynthia Lord with photography by John Bald (Cynthia's husband) and illustrations by Hazel Mitchell is a gentle and inspiring story of caring for those looking for their forever homes.  It is heartwarming and brimming with the tenderest of love.

My family fosters bunnies for an animal rescue.  That means that we take care of the bunnies at our home for a few months until they're ready to be adopted by another family.

Staying with a foster family assists rescue rabbits in adapting to live with people who care for them.  These bunnies must unlearn their fear of humans.  One day two Netherland Dwarf bunnies arrived at Cynthia Lord's home.  A gray bunny named Benjamin and a brown bunny named Peggotty needed their help.  They were kept separated; one was a boy and the other was a girl.

It was not long before both Benjamin and Peggotty were hip-hopping in the air doing what are called a binky.  They were settling into living indoors with compassionate humans.  Soon after they began to exhibit their happiness, a surprise was discovered. Peggotty was a mom.  Four teeny, tiny bunnies were nestled in some fur inside her home.

These new arrivals were named after characters in Charles Dickens's books; Fezzi, Dodger, Pip and Tiny Tim.  Dodger and Fezzi started to grow, fur changing their look completely.  (Despite advice from a veterinarian and the folks at the rescue, Pip and Tiny Tim were not strong enough to stay alive.) Dodger and Fezzi thrived doing all those delightful bunny things.  They even snuggled with stuffed toy bunnies named . . . Pip and Tiny Tim.

As they got used to household sounds, Dodger and Fezzi were taken outside to experience all possible sensory perceptions.  They grew bigger and bigger.  They were touched each day to develop a sense of security in the hands of people.  After two months it was time for Benjamin, Peggotty, Fezzi and Dodger to go to forever homes.  And there was one more surprise.

Readers will easily become participants in the fostering of Benjamin, Peggotty, Dodger and Fezzi through the soothing conversational words of Cynthia Lord. She takes readers into the world of fostering rabbits paragraph by paragraph, step by step.  We learn how their physical and mental needs are met.  We gain an appreciation of their differing personalities.  We realize it takes a special human being to be a foster pet parent.  A lot of action words are used as well as an emphasis on specific "bunny" words like sniff, climb, hop and touched noses. Here is a passage.

I checked on them as Peggotty
hopped around the room.  I gave
her some carrot tops and told
her she was a good mama.

Throughout the book photographs, as seen on the matching dust jacket and book case, by John Bald add a vivid awareness of fostering to the narrative.  From the close-up on the front to the portrait of a bunny snooping inside a flower pot with a stuffed toy bunny next to it, on the back, we find ourselves drawn further into a world bursting with bunnies. A paler yellow shade is placed on the opening and closing endpapers to complement the colors on the jacket and case and those photographs within the body.

On the title page Dodger and Fezzi are shown next to each other with a colorful fabric braid curved near them.  On the verso page a bunny is resting inside a tube.  Most of the photographs take us close to the rabbits, making for an intimate experience.  Some of the images extend page edge to page edge and others are within a circular frame.  Photographs may overlap in the interest of excellent design.

One of my many, many favorite photographs is of Fezzi.  It fills nearly an entire page, but the right side is part of a circle.  Fezzi is close to readers but intent on examining a foot.  It's a completely endearing position.  (I can already hear readers cooing their affection for this picture and this bunny.)

To further elevate the text and photographs, artwork by author and illustrator Hazel Mitchell is shown frequently within the book, beginning on the back of the jacket and case with upside down rabbit ears shown in the upper, right-hand corner.  At most page turns we see her realistic, winsome pictures.  Sometimes we are shown a bunny in its entirety or simply a portion of one hopping off the page.

One of my favorite illustrations of Hazel's is shown in the lower, right-hand corner of a page.  Her gray and white bunny is raised up on its hind legs, stretching upward.  The front paws are resting on the right edge of the page.  Is this little being turning the page for us?  Has it discovered something new?

Spring is the time of new beginnings.  It is a time to celebrate holidays.  Readers will want to hug Borrowing Bunnies:  A Surprising True Tale Of Fostering Rabbits written by Cynthia Lord with photographs by John Bald and illustrations by Hazel Mitchell.  It presents an honest and engaging look at caring for bunnies and preparing them for forever homes.  At the end of the book is a one-page discussion titled Do You Want Your Own Rabbit For Keeps?  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  (Caregivers should be prepared with at least a stuffed toy bunny for younger readers to hold.)

If you desire to learn more about Cynthia Lord, John Bald and Hazel Mitchell and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Cynthia Lord maintains an account on Instagram. Cynthia Lord stops by author Kirby Larson's blog to chat about her new releases.  Hazel Mitchell has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Here is a link to a printable calendar featuring a bunny from the book.  (There are several other links at Cynthia Lord's website for this book.)

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by those participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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