Beyond the Burrow

Beyond the Burrow
Jessica Meserve
Macmillan Children’s Books

Rabbits prefer to stay close to their cosy burrows with other rabbits for company and juicy carrots for sustenance. When it comes to other creatures, particularly large hairy ones with claws, they’re considered terrifying, avoid at all costs, beasties.

When the Rabbit protagonist in this story discovers what looks like the most delectable breakfast carrot, little does she know that it’s about to change her life.

In attempting to reach said carrot, she takes a tumble and finds herself entering the wrong hole. Not only that but when she emerges it’s to feel herself plunging into the depths of a river. Happily she surfaces and is able to cling tight to a passing log but she’s far from her burrow. But then comes a face-to-face encounter with a not-rabbit that has all the alarming features Rabbit most fears.

Time to make a rabbity leap for safety and dig for all you’re worth.

Is this the end for our long-eared friend? She fears it might be so. Instead however, the not-rabbit pushes something towards her and such is Rabbit’s hunger that she risks a tiny bite.

Then follows an entirely new, brave idea that results in her climbing way up out of her comfort zone until she sees …

Despite claws and hairiness, the giant not-rabbit turns out to be ‘no so very scary’. Likewise the other not-rabbits that have gathered up in the treetops. Mutual acts of kindness ensue and Rabbit decides that falling can sometimes be fun.

That night though, she stays awake thinking about home and come morning, she spies a familiar sight far away. Time to try to reach it, but with friends in tow everything feels less scary

and eventually her burrow is in hopping distance …

Can things get any better? Perhaps, but to find out, you’ll need to get hold of a copy of Jessica’s book …

With plenty of dramatic moments, and full of warmth and humour, the story is huge fun to read aloud. Jessica’s depictions of ‘NOT very rabbity’ behaviour and indeed the antics of the treetop dwelling menagerie are highly entertaining. So too are the plethora of signs scattered strategically in various places throughout Rabbit’s adventure.

Springtime Picture Book Delights

This is a catch-up of some Macmillan titles:

The Nature Girls
Aki (DelphineMach)
Macmillan Children’s Books

Sixteen inquisitive girls – I love the fact they’re introduced by name on the title page – don identical yellow safari suits and sally forth to explore nature, in particular different biomes.
Bags on backs, having observed some rabbits in their garden, they head for the beach and clad in sub aqua gear, dive down

and swim with dolphins.

Then it’s back on with the safari suits and off they go walking through rainforest, across a desert,

then aboard a safari bus travelling through grasslands; on a plane tundra bound where they board a dog sledge

and finally, they sail off destination a forest alive with sounds of its wildlife.

Observant listeners and readers will notice the less obvious as well as obvious animals and other detail in Aki’s playfully adorable scenes, as her rhyming text bounces along as enthusiastically as the intrepid travellers. I absolutely love the sense of mischief occasionally shown by some of the young female friends in this joyous adventure and the final scene hinting of further wonder-filled adventures in the offing. Hooray for girl power!

A fun introduction to the scientific notion of biomes – the final spread about these may well set the inquisitive off researching the topic further.

Little Bear’s Spring
Elli Woollard & Briony May Smith
Macmillan Children’s Books

As any walk in town or rural parts will show, spring has well and truly sprung now and what better way to celebrate its joys (apart from a walk) than with terrific twosome Elli and Briony’s gorgeous book collaboration that celebrates not only the coming of my favourite time of year, but also, friendship.

When a little bear awakes one morning all he sees is a vast, seemingly empty snowy landscape.
Without a playmate, Little Bear spies a small smooth stone that feels like a promise.

Tucking it into his fur, he heads off down the track in search of friends.

Too busy for friendship, the birds are nest building and bear’s efforts to do likewise fail so off he goes again.

He finds however that the hares and wolves are also busy with spring preparations and his attempts to emulate them are, in the first instance merely a flop and in the second, pretty scary. This brief scariness however, precipitates the perfect finale of the story …

for when Little Bear awakes next morning a whole new world with an exciting surprise awaits …

Delivered in faultless lyrical rhyme Elli’s terrific tale with its wonderful evocations of spring, and Briony’s stupendous scenes of the natural world and the changes therein, (her use of ‘night and light and the half light’) with the terrific portrayal of the zestiness of life in springtime make this book’s a true treasure no matter what time of year you share it.

What Clara Saw
Jessica Meserve
Macmillan Children’s Books

Clara’s enthusiasm for the school trip to a wildlife park could so easily have been thwarted by the egotistic, know-all, humans are vastly superior to other animals, attitude of teacher, Mr Biggity, as he walks around intent on proving the veracity of his fake-scientific assertions to the children in his class at every opportunity, talking down the animals’ awesome characteristics.

Clara in contrast walks around with an open mind and eyes, wondering and observing what the residents of the animal park are doing. “Do animals feel sad?” she asks … ‘no, no and NO, … their brains are far too small for feelings” comes his retort.

And of course they can’t possibly communicate, use tools to get what they need and absolutely ‘don’t care about the world around them’ …

As Mr B. rabbits on, the animals are engaged in using their aptitudes, knowledge, skills and natural instincts to outwit the park keeper and come to the aid of a giant tortoise, about to be transported away from her fellow animals.

So much is shown rather than told. Jessica’s exquisitely observed watercolour and pen illustrations say far more than her words: Clara’s fascination and joy as she watches the animals is evident from the outset as is Mr Biggity’s condescending attitude both to his charges and the animals. Note the position of his right hand as they enter the park, his meticulously tied laces, his upturned foot as he strides forth and in contrast, the expressions of the children, as they look in wonder at what they see.

This humorous, cleverly constructed story brilliantly demonstrates how best to learn; how not to be gulled by false information (HMMM!) and there’s not a tiny weeny touch of the dogmatic preachiness that is Mr B. anywhere in sight.