Rabbityness : Jo Empson

RabbitynessRabbityness by Jo Empson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have several children’s literature reading lists on my blog, one of which is titles which feature bereavement / grieving / loss. You can view the actual list here (and it’s crowd-editable, so please feel free to add to it!). One of the titles which often crops up in talk of titles of this nature is Rabbityness.

And last night I read it and I tweeted this: “So I just read ‘Rabbityness’ by Jo Empson. Dear sweet God. *bawls at everything* *eats all the chocolate* *bawls some more* (It’s amazing)”

That, dear reader, sums up my instant emotional reaction to this brilliant, perfect book. It’s one to go into blind in a way (though if you are working / reading it with children, read it first and have a think about your reactions to it beforehand), and it’s one that is just stunning.

Rabbit is a ‘very special rabbit’ who enjoys doing rabbity things such as jumping and running and un-rabbity things such as painting and dancing and making music. One day Rabbit disappears and the other rabbits are heartbroken with his loss. But then they discover what Rabbit left behind for them…

There seems to be a ploy between Empson and Richard Adams to make me bawl at the sight of rabbits. Empson’s so smart and subtle here, and quiet, almost, in her work. The endpapers are a delight, a graphic and quite moving repeated pattern of rabbits doing rabbity things against a vivid green background. And even the title page is a joy, the title scrawled in childish letters and being studied by three silhouetted rabbits whilst another races across the copyright page leaving footprints (or leaves?) behind him in a spectrum of autumn colours.

Once you’re into the book itself, there is a lot of white space centred around the central activities of rabbit. There’s also possibly one of the best uses of a splash page I’ve ever seen which I won’t spoil, but it did make me gasp with utter joy.

Empson is a gift in this book and Rabbityness is one of the best things I’ve read in a long while.

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