Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A Horde Of Hares

In our neck of the northern Michigan woods, the wild rabbits have huge appetites for . . . everything.  No item is safe from their voracious desire to sample a range of perennial plants and shrubs, regardless of the season.  They are both clever and determined despite the use of carefully placed and secured netting and burlap wrap. 

Most of them are the normal size of wild rabbits but one or two are rather large which confirms their considerable abilities not only in enjoying a banquet of edibles but in eluding the prevalent raptors and coyotes.  It's hard to know how many there are in residence, but their frequent appearances indicate their numbers are growing.  A is for Another Rabbit (Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, April 7, 2020) written and illustrated by Hannah Batsel is an alphabet adventure gone awry due to an overabundance of bunnies.  Trust me when I relate that this is no laughing matter to one particular owl, but the hares find it hilarious (and you will, too.)

A is for A rabbit.

rabbit starts with R! 

Yes, but "a rabbit" starts with A.

As you might surmise the letter B is represented by the word bunny which, I might add, is quickly pointed out by the disturbed owl as being a synonym for rabbit.  As the narrative proceeds through the letters of C and D, entire phrases represent those letters because of the first word in those very phrases.  A promise is made for the letter E.  Initially, the owl is happy because it seems this alphabet book is back on track until he uncovers a wily disguise. 

The presentations for letters F through J are outrageously focused on rabbits rather than the specific letters.  Owl is fearful of being fired.  Clearly Owl is getting more and more rattled when he mistakes the word Kit for Kite.  Kit happens to be the term for a baby . . . rabbit.

The farther into the alphabet we go, the more despondent Owl becomes. He's a complete bundle of nerves.  The unseen narrator convinces him to rest for a few pages after the letter P.  Owl readily agrees.

The silence that settles over the pages for Q is laden with suspense because the next letter is R for . . . RABBITS, oodles of rabbits.  Owl is flabbergasted as he shouts out S for stop!  An obvious message is conveyed.  With letters T through Y, it's fulfilled.  As the alphabet book comes to a close, Owl, frazzled to within an inch of his bird life, finally gets his wish.  Although, others get the last word.

Author Hannah Batsel begins her comedic tale immediately as we read the first three sentences.  It builds with each letter of the alphabet as the banter increases between Owl and the unseen narrator.  Every alphabetical statement, more preposterous than the last, is countered by Owl as his frustration escalates.  This supplies readers with humor which multiplies proportionality.  The pure fun at reading this text aloud increases with the use of alliteration and rhyming.  It's a joyful rabbit jubilee!  Here is a passage.

G is for Goodness me!
Another page
of rabbits?

Now, look here.  I may
be small, but I refuse to be
pushed around by a pack
of long-eared, carrot-eating
furballs!  If you don't stop
this nonsense, I'll---

The full-color images on the front and back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case declare shocked surprise and marvelous merriment. Clearly on the right, the rabbits have no intention of stopping their quest to occupy every single letter of this alphabet book, much to the dismay of Owl.  To the left a multitude of rabbits in an array of colors and attire are layered together.  Among them is a rabbit robot, a pastry chef rabbit carrying a cake with lighted candles, a rabbit wearing a Wisconsin cheesehead hat, a crown-wearing royal rabbit, a rabbit opera singer donned in a Viking helmet with horns and braids and rabbits wearing lion and alligator costumes.

On the opening endpapers in lavender as a canvas with brown etching is a gallery of animal portraits, meant to be a part of this alphabet book.  Owl is entering from the far-left walking along, carrying a book under one wing and a hot beverage in the other wing.  On the closing endpapers, a white rabbit on a ladder and with telltale red paint has made alterations to the gallery.  An exhausted Owl, beverage spilled and book on the floor, is sleeping on the sofa on the far right.

These images

painted with acrylics, black ink brush pens, and liquid gold leaf

by Hannah Batsel are a reflection of her gift of humor and love of rabbits per her dedication and note on the verso page.  On the title page Owl is quietly at rest in an easy chair in front of his fireplace.  Careful readers will notice an odd shape on the globe next to his chair. 

Each illustration spanning two pages or single pages is highly animated with bright and lively characters.  Their facial features especially those of Owl mirror every mood.  Readers will pause at each page turn to notice the details and myriad elements.  The use of white space is instrumental in depicting the comedy and drama to perfection most notably for the letter Q.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the letter E.  Spanning across from the left, over the gutter and nearly to the edge on the right is an elephant.  This is no ordinary elephant.  This elephant is formed from patched gray blankets of different textures, with cardboard ears painted pink, cardboard tubes for tusks and a trunk manipulated by three rabbits and a stick contraption.  On the green and yellow tile floor are splatters of pink paint and a dropped paint brush.  Owl is basking in a glow of suspicious confidence with closed eyes.  This page is sure to evoke bursts of laughter.

This book, A is for Another Rabbit written and illustrated by Hannah Batsel, is a celebration of all things rabbit.  It is one of the funniest alphabet books with bunnies busting out of the seams. It can be used with other alphabet books, a unit about rabbits or a theme based on humor, one discussing what makes a book hilarious.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Hannah Batsel and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website a page dedicated to this book provides a glimpse at illustrations.  Hannah Batsel has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images and read an excerpt.

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