Here are some things I really like about Rabbityness by Jo Empson.
*The title: Rabbityness. I know it’s not a word but it captures perfectly what this book is about – the qualities and activities that contribute to the identity of this particular rabbit. Whether he’s jumping, burrowing or washing his ears (typical rabbit business) or making music or painting (non-traditional rabbit business) this is a rabbit who knows what it takes to make him happy.
*The art work: I'm guessing that the art work is done as watercolours, ink, pencil, and maybe acrylics. (The author doesn't have a description included, unfortunately.) But the medium isn't as important as the effect. The black (inky?) rabbit is an inviting creature that creates bright splash-happy, psychedelic paintings that explode across the pages. While making music, the resulting sounds are multi-coloured notes that pack the page. The excitement and feeling of compelling joy spreads to the other rabbits.
*The message: I guess this might be considered the story of the picture book but I got too caught up with the idea about how one rabbit has a lasting impact on his fellow rabbits. Inexplicably, the black rabbit disappears one day. Though the other rabbits search for him he remains missing. This is never explained. But that’s not what the book is about. It’s about what the black rabbit leaves behind.
You see, after the other rabbits realized black rabbit isn't coming back and they sink into a dreary, grey funk, they decide to go down into black rabbit’s burrow, down through a deep, dark hole to see what he’s left behind. And, this turns out to be the gift of creativity, the things to make their own music and art. Unrabbity endeavours are abound as all the rabbits explore their creative sides as they fondly remember the black rabbit. For me, this was more message than story.
*The metaphor: Overall, the idea of individual creativity having the power to affect others is offered here in a beautifully illustrated picture book. Also offered is that there can be a lasting impact, a legacy to be appreciated from those that came before. Also, that life goes on and we can continue creating our own happiness. And, that jumping into the unknown can lead to unexpected places and pleasures.
Hop on into Rabbityness. This one will have applications across the grade levels.