A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
APRIL 24:

  • Happy birthday Lynn Hall (Barry the Bravest Saint Bernard), Deborah Heiligman (Charles and Emma ), and Bert Kitchen (Whoo Goes There?).
  • It’s the birth date of Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), Remember the Alamo!, and Evaline Ness (1911-1986), Sams, Bangs, and Moonshine.
  • Best birthday wishes to the Library of Congress, established by John Adams in 1800. Read American Treasures in the Library of Congress: Memory, Reason, Imagination by Margaret E. Wagner and Presidents: A Library of Congress Book by Martin W. Sandler.
  • Okay dog owners, it’s the beginning of National Scoop the Poop Week. Enough said.

The celebration of Easter contains both religious and secular components. Today many children will search for Easter eggs, candy baskets, and the various treats that have become associated with the holiday. Although hundreds of books have been published for Easter, for me the best was published seventy-two years ago: DuBose Heyward’s The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. Although much has changed in our society, this timeless book still works beautifully for young readers.

“We hear of the Easter Bunny who comes each Easter before sunrise to bring eggs for boys and girls, and we think there is only one,” begins master storyteller Heyward. Not so, he tells readers. There are five Easter Bunnies and each must cover vast territories. They must be the kindest, swiftest, and wisest bunnies in the whole wide world. One day a country bunny with brown fur dreams of becoming one of these fine Easter bunnies. But when she grows up, she has no less than twenty-one babies, and she temporarily stops thinking about hopping all over the world as an Easter Bunny. Instead she raises her babies, trains them to be productive, and keeps everything in order.

Lo and behold, one fine day the old, wise, and kind Grandfather Rabbit needs to replace one of the Easter Bunnies and ends up choosing our heroine—because he is so impressed by how well turned out all her children have become. In the second part of the story, the little country bunny gets tested on Easter day—and finally delivers the most beautiful Easter egg of all.

Heyward authored the novel Porgy, on which George Gershwin based his opera Porgy and Bess. He first told a version of this rabbit story to his eight-year-old daughter Jennifer. A frequent visitor to the McDowell Writing Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, Heyward narrated the story there in the summer of 1938, and illustrator Marjorie Flack, also a frequent visitor to McDowell, asked him to write it down so that she could illustrate it. It only took Heyward two hours to do so. Heyward’s proper Boston editor insisted the country bunny have a husband—although he does not make any appearance in the book. For all intents and purposes, the country bunny remains a single mother. Most often remembered for her art in The Story About Ping, Marjorie Flack drew her inspiration for this book from Japanese prints. She shifts between wonderful domestic scenes, with the bunnies engaged in activities, to broad panoramas of the Country Bunny delivering eggs. If you’re interested in the fascinating publishing history of The Country Bunny, you can find even more information here.

The story stresses the importance of hope, determination, and courage. Not only was the book a feminist statement in a time when this perspective was rarely shown, it also celebrates the achievements of a brown bunny rather than a white one. Yet at no point does the reader ever feel as if they are being given a polemic—Heyward has created a totally satisfying world.

I’m just glad that seventy-two years later, this little country girl continues to be the Energizer Bunny who keeps moving. Some books, like old wine, just get better over time; such is the case with The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.

Here’s a page from The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes:

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Originally posted April 24, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Easter, Holidays, Rabbits
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
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COMMENTS

  1. suzi w. says:

    Having woken up too early on a Sunday, thinking it was Monday, I think I’ll go find my copy of the Country Bunny to celebrate Easter. Thank you for the history. What riches you have here in your almanac. Truly, riches.

    xo,
    suzi

  2. Joyce Sidman says:

    Anita,
    This, too, is one of my favorite books. It has everything–a strong, adventurous Mommy, a wise grandfather, industrious baby bunnies, artists who are just as important as other workers, and a room full of gorgeous heaps of eggs!! Thanks so much for highlighting it in this season of new life and hope.

  3. Ms. Yingling says:

    LOVE this one. Read it countless times to my children. Especially loved the girl power of the mother bunny going off to work, but did wonder about the lack of father.

  4. Melinda Pyde says:

    I love this book to use with my first graders. It works so well for teaching about the pillars of character, and which bunnies follow the pillars and which bunnies don’t. You can hear a pin drop in the room when I read this story.

  5. Lydia says:

    Thank you for pulling out this treasure! I remember the illustrations so vividly — pairs of bunnies sweeping and painting (was it carrots on the canvas?), the steep mountain face that she climbed, the boy’s golden curls on the pillow, the spectacles resting on Grandfather Bunny’s nose…..what a heroine she is, and so organized too! (I should be so lucky.) I also appreciated that art, music, and dancing were part of the daily rotation of important activities for the bunnies. :)

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