Gregory Maguire, illustrated by David Litchfield
As the story begins young rabbit Cress, her mother and baby brother Kip are grieving the loss of Papa Watercress, who ‘went out and didn’t come back’; (though Cress still has hopes of him being alive). Mama Rabbit has decided to move her family from the warren to new digs: the one-room basement of an ‘apartment tree’ – a dead hollow oak known as the Broken Arms. Its landlord is Mr Titus Pillowby Owl and he takes payment for rent in moths. Failure to pay could result in eviction or if he changes his diet, the loss of their lives. Other residents include a noisy squirrel family with a doctor father, rent collector Manny and wife Sophie mouse and two songbirds. The birds are always on the lookout for dangers ,particularly in the form of the legendary snake ‘The Final Drainpipe’ and Monsieur Reynard the fox.
We’re treated to a mix of adventures, domestic detail, growing pains (Cress), clever crafting (Mum rabbit weaves tapestries) and great danger. Examples of this are when Cress and squirrel Finian are swept over a waterfall on a raft;
Cress confronts and enchants Tunk the Honeybear, but then she and Finny are held captive for a short while by pompous skunk, Lady Cabbage – she who has designs on Cress as a housemaid.
Full of heart, with some sadness, essentially this is a charming story of moving on, growing up, forming friendships and learning to love, becoming part of a new community and flourishing.
Or as Cress tells Fricassee the hen, “today might not be good. But it might be good enough.” In his glowing illustrations David Litchfield captures both the wry humour of the tale and its unforgettable cast of characters.
Read aloud or read alone, animal lovers especially will be utterly enchanted by both words and pictures..