Monday, February 9, 2015
Newbery Review: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson (1945 Medal Winner)
"New folks are coming to the hill!"sings young rabbit Little Georgie, and soon all the animals on the hill are humming his tune. For New Folks are coming to the Big House, and hard times will soon be over. Written after World War II, the book echoes 1945 America's hopes for restoration, stability, and safety for families.
Rabbit Hill is a classic children's animal story in the lines of Wind in the Willows and Winnie-the-Pooh, with perky, well-meaning Little Georgie leading the story alongside a large and colorful cast of American wildlife. However, unlike its British cousins, it is shorter, with a easier reading level, making it, in my opinion, an excellent book for readers graduating to chapter books, or for a read aloud to younger children. It is cheerier than Charlotte's Web, and less philosophical than Willows, and has that good old sense of the bedtime story.
There were only two things I had a problem with. One, the large cast was introduced in a span of two chapters, and I found myself confused trying to keep track of all of Little Georgie's neighbors (this is coming from someone who had an easy time keeping track of Rostov cousins in War and Peace). And two, without giving away spoilers, the book climaxed and ended abruptly. I felt like it should have built up the finale more. While, true to the times, the book has a moralistic tone, it is never preachy. The characters are simply well-meaning and kindhearted overall.
Also, on a side note, try to find an edition that was printed after 1970, as the original contains some racial stereotypes.
All in all I enjoyed Rabbit Hill in light of its intended audience. After reading some Newbery winners that fell flat by trying to be "grown up," it was refreshing to read a book that was not trying to be any more than it was: a sweet animal story for younger children.
Rating: Three and a half stars
Favorite character: Little Georgie's father
Recommended age range: Anyone who can read or be read to
Content level for parents: An animal is hit by a car, though no damage is described
For more Marvelous Middle Grade reviews, visit Shannon's blog here