Little Rabbit Series written and illustrated by Harry Horse
Even though he can be willful and petulant and not always kind, I love Little Rabbit (be sure to check out the website where there are some great games & puzzles) probably because, at one time or another, he is exactly like almost every toddler I have ever known. And, while my son and I get a kick out of Little Rabbit (we started checking these out of the library over and over years ago and I am so happy to finally own a couple) what I really love is the attention to detail and the fantastic color palette Horse uses for each book. Working with vibrant blues, oranges and purples, the forest world of Little Rabbit and his family is equally evocative of the illustrations of Erenest H Shepherd and the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. While the stories in all the books are wonderful - Harry Horse is magnificent at capturing the mindset of a young child - the real treat is rambling through this colorful world, from the giant hollow tree where the rabbit family lives, to Grandma's vegetable garden and on to the junk yard, all the way to the gates of Rabbit World amusement park.
In Little Rabbit Lost, it is our hero's birthday. He wakes up to a small pile of presents at the foot of his bed, including his little blue suit and red balloon, only to find that the real present if a trip to Rabbit World! Frustrated that he can't go on the rides that his older brothers and sisters are enjoying and anxious to get in on the fun, Little Rabbit gets separated from his family. His red balloon leads his family back to him for a happy reunion and a birthday cake - carrot, of course.
In Little Rabbit Goes to School, Little Rabbit insists on bringing he favorite pull toy, a wooden horse named Charlie Horse and trouble ensues. Turns out Charlie has a penchant for mischief. He disrupts story time and refuses to play with the other children at recess. Harry Horse lets the readers decide if it is Charlie Horse or really Little Rabbit who is the naughty one, but, in case they aren't sure, parents will applaud Little Rabbit's decision to leave Charlie Horse at home next time.
I think my favorite Little Rabbit book has to be Little Rabbit Runaway, in which a scolding sends Little Rabbit into the wilds to fend for himself. Meeting up with another runaway, Molly Mouse, the two build a rambling house from junkyard findings. But, when Molly turns out to be a little bit too much like Mama Rabbit (I learned one of my all-time favorite names from this book - bossyboots) Little Rabbit calls Molly a name and takes off again. An impending thunderstorm sends him back to the house where Molly scares him even further by telling a story about a scary cat. But, all is well in the end when, thankfully, Mama Rabbit and Mama Mouse find their babies, scoop them up and take them home.
In a twist on the typical feelings of jealousy that make up the plots of most new sibling books, when Little Rabbit becomes the big brother to triplets he is delighted. He wants to play with the babies, hold the babies and feed the babies.
But, Little Rabbit soon learns that he can't do all the things the babies need, only Mama Rabbit can and doing these things takes up a lot of her time. When the babies do start exploring on their own, the first thing they want to do is to get into Little Rabbit's toys, which does not go well at all. Soon the exciting, new babies are the sticky, smelly annoying babies. In a rare turn of empathy, Little Rabbit notices how tired Mama and Papa are as they try to quiet the crying babies well into the night and he steps in to help, bringing Charlie Horse and his red balloon and patience.
Little Rabbit's Christmas is the last book in the series and has all the charm - and persnicketiness of the first four. Little Rabbit's singleminded focus on his new toy - a red sled. Once again, Harry Horse conveys his deep understanding of the nature of preschoolers while employing his magical, colorful rich illustrations.
Harry Horse is also the author and illustrator of The Last of the... series