Happy Friday, y’all!
Can you believe we are at the end of May already? It’s flown by with all the change in our family. We are excited for the summer weather that is finally coming and have been busy with many fun adventures with family already.
Today I am sharing my review of Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson. This short novel won the Newbery Medal in 1945. My mom brought a library copy on a recent trip to my house and I read it while she was there. It was quick enough and engaging enough that I finished it in the midst of last minute packing and cleaning. So that shows what sort of book it is!
- This is a delightful little book, and also a bit unrealistic. I’ve read enough of the older Newbery winners to start to appreciate their slower plots, lovely settings, and simple characters. This one fits well with the others I’ve read.
- The illustrations (which Lawson drew himself!) are a fun addition to the story. I can imagine reading this book aloud to my kids (be aware of a few violent scenes that may be too scary for younger readers) and them anxiously looking at each picture to see little Georgie singing his tune and the animals discussing the new folks. The illustrations bring this idyllic world to life.
- Fun fact: Robert Lawson also illustrated The Story of Ferdinand written by Munro Leaf. That’s a recent favorite around here!
According to Goodreads, “It has been a while since Folks lived in the Big House, and an even longer time has passed since there has been a garden at the House. All the animals of the Hill are very excited about the new Folks moving in, and they wonder how things are going to change. It’s only a matter of time before the animals of the Hill find out just who is moving in, and they may be a little bit surprised when they do.”
This novel really starts as a darling story because of the characters. I enjoyed the animal characters especially the rabbit family. Father Rabbit is a delightful Southern gentleman. I empathize with Mother Rabbit’s constant worrying. And I think little Georgie is my favorite character in the whole book. I loved his song and his historic jump. It’s fun to see the perspective of “life on the hill” from the different animals. The anticipation of the new folks coming is contagious. From the first few pages, I was curious about who the new folks would be and how they would interact with the animal world around them. I was eager to see them just like the animals.
For me, when the new folks actually arrived, the story just got so unrealistic. I certainly think people should be kind to animals. But I was surprised how far these folks went to help the animals around them. In fact, the new folks are so kind to animals that they seem unreal. **SPOILER ALERT** Rescuing a drowning mouse and nursing him back to health? Same thing with an animal hit by a car? The signs about be kind to animals? Making their garden bigger to accommodate the animals? The saint statue and food altar were just too much for me. Again, I think we should be good to animals and treat our neighbors with respect. But this seems a bit far fetched for me. Or perhaps it felt a bit too idyllic. It felt like a world that does not exist anymore and therefore became unrealistic for me.
The writing is delightful and the scenery is lovely. I enjoyed the details about the hill and the different animals’ homes. And the ending is as idyllic and joyful as you could hope. But I can understand why this book faded with time and isn’t very well known today. It’s simple and idyllic which perhaps makes it easier to forget. But I’m glad I’ve been able to read these older Newbery winners because they show us a different type of novel than we often read today.
Overall, this book is an idyllic, quick read. It probably won’t change your life or even be your new favorite. But you will be glad you read it when you finish.
Which are your favorite early Newbery Medal winners?
What are your favorite books with anthropomorphic animals?
I read this Newbery Medal winner as a part of my Newbery Challenge.
I plan to read all 100 Newbery Medal winners by the end of 2022, the year the 100th winner is announced.