March 19, 2012

My Friend Rabbit

My Friend Rabbit
By Eric Rohmann; illus. by author
2-4 Preschool Roaring Brook Press 32 pp.
978-1596436633 Hardcover $15.95

Have you ever had a friend who, no matter how well he meant, caused trouble without even trying? Mouse's friend, Rabbit, is exactly that type of friend. When Rabbit accidentally launches Mouse's biplane into a tree, he embarks on a daring solution that does indeed end in well-meaning disaster.

Mouse, with his sharp eyes and expressive paws, is clearly the more practical of the two. He's an easy figure to relate to (there are short, bold lines darting from his head expressing worry or exasperation in many of the scenes). You get the sense that he knows it's going to end badly, but that he'll see it through because Rabbit is his friend. Rabbit, for his part, is and energetic soul, dashing gamely off in pursuit of the solution - "Not to worry, Mouse. I've got an idea!" (this mantra is repeated several times, always before more trouble). Rabbit returns over the course of 10 wordless pages pulling an elephant, shoving a rhino, and finally carrying a succession of animals from hippo to duck in order to make a living ladder high enough to reach Mouse's plane. Mouse looks on curiously and then pitches in, gamely joining his friend until all of the animals are stacked and the plane is just out of reach, a sight that stretches over two pages, comically presaging disaster. But when the disaster comes, and Rabbit is alone in a pile of very annoyed animals, Mouse (whose plane got knocked loose in the tumble) flies loyally to his rescue, picking him up just in time, even as the promise of more trouble zooms after them.

Rohmann's text is minimal, but it manages a pleasing, smooth rhythm, with repetition and sight words used to good effect. The story is a simple one of friendship and loyalty - it's the illustrations that make My Friend Rabbit special. The bold black outlines around each figure pop them off the delicious blue background of the sky. Though drawn in a cartoon style, Rabbit and Mouse come alive with fully realized personalities thanks to Rohmann's well-chosen, uncluttered details. The pictures elevate My Friend Rabbit  as it romps comically through an impending train-wreck and out the other side, teaching patience, acceptance and the value of friendship along the way.

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