JULY 17:

  • Happy birthday Chris Crutcher (Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes).
  • It’s the birth date of Karla Kuskin (1932-2009), The Philharmonic Gets Dressed.
  • In 1867, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the first dental school in the U.S., is established. Read Doctor De Soto by William Steig.
  • In 1897, the first ship arrives in Seattle carrying gold from the Yukon, a Canadian Territory. Read Children of the Gold Rush by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh.
  • It’s the beginning of National Zoo Keeper Week, celebrated the third week in July. Read A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead, and Good night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman.
  • It’s National Ice Cream Day, always held the third Sunday in July. Read Wemberly’s Ice-Cream Star by Kevin Henkes and The Ice Cream Con by Jimmy Docherty.

For National Rabbit Week, we’ll look at several books, starting with two bunny books ideal for preschoolers.  We have a bumper crop of rabbits in my neighborhood this year, and my Bernese Mountain Dog Lancelot is obsessed with them. Possibly he is a candidate for both books of the day.

A graduate of Bank Street College in New York, Margaret Wise Brown became one of the first talented writers to focus on the needs of very young children, believing that they wanted to see objects familiar to them in their books—the “here and now” philosophy of children’s books. She also had a touch of magic and the gift of a poet. In The Runaway Bunny, illustrated by Clement Hurd, a young bunny describes how he will run away and his mother responds with her plans to find him. They go through scenario after scenario until the bunny decides, finally, to stay. For Brown’s spare text in this picture book ideal for one- to four-year-olds, Clement Hurd creates watercolors and pencil sketches that provide a perfect visual counterpoint. Hurd was one of Brown’s favorite illustrators; she thought he looked like a rabbit himself. Certainly he could draw them like an angel. This story, combining two great talents, attests to a mother’s love and devotion. It has never been out of print, or out of favor.

For more than thirty years, Rosemary Wells has explored the relationship of two bunnies—a toddler Max and his bossy older sister Ruby. Inspired by Wells’s two daughters, the Max and Ruby books perfectly capture sibling interaction, doing so with bunnies as characters. In Max’s Chocolate Chicken, Ruby constantly lectures Max and gloats over her own Easter egg finds—only to discover that Max has eaten the best treat, a chocolate chicken. In Max’s Dragon Shirt, Max and Ruby set out to shop till they drop, but Max manages to spend all their limited funds on a fantastic dragon T-shirt. These stories of the youngest triumphing over the older, bossier child are perfect for the youngest readers, ages one through four, who always delight in Max’s success.

Both Margaret Wise Brown and Rosemary Wells used rabbit characters to explore human traits and actions. Both created exciting, funny, and totally satisfying books for preliterate readers. Before they meet Peter Rabbit, young children can master The Runaway Bunny and the Max and Ruby stories.

Here’s a page from The Runaway Bunny:





















“Shucks,” said the bunny, “I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”

And so he did.

“Have a carrot,” said the mother bunny.


Originally posted July 17, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Family, Imagination, Rabbits
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Runaway Bunny


  1. Lindsey Lane says:

    I love the synchronicity of life. At this very moment, I am sitting at my mother’s home in Rhode Island where bunny rabbits abound. (Do they know it’s national rabbit week?) Also, I am remembering a time in my adult life when my mother and I weren’t speaking and I sent her this very book as a way to weave the tear in the fabric between us back together. Thank you, Anita.

  2. suzi w. says:

    I remember reading that Cynthia Voigt and her children so loved this book (RB) that she would often say to them, “have a carrot.”

    I didn’t grow up with this book–I didn’t hear about it until Sunday School when I was in 7th or 8th grade. (Which is also where I learned about Frog & Toad.) But it is a dear one.

    BUT MAX! MAX is the best. I have a little cardboard standup of Max that was part of a promotion from when I worked at Barnes & Noble in the 90s. Max’s Dragon Shirt is one of my all time favorites. I NEVER tire of Max and Ruby.

    Thanks again, for bringing a huge grin to my face, Anita.

  3. Anita says:

    Suzi and Lindsey: Thanks for these memories. It is amazing how children’s book can work throughout our lives.

  4. My children really enjoy the audiobook version of Runaway Bunny. The music in the background is very calming and pleasant.

  5. Kathleen T. says:

    Before she could read my daughter knew every word of The Runaway Bunny. At that age, our daily routine often included a nature walk together — through the woods in our backyard. “I will be a tree that you come home to,” was her favorite part, and it still brings back wonderful memories!

  6. Jude says:

    I read The Runaway Bunny to my son when he was two, and he cried and said, “I don’t want to runaway from my mama!” Separation anxiety way too acute at that point, so I put it away for a year and read it again when he was three. He was much more receptive to the story that time.

  7. Lisa Sunbury says:

    I confess, I am 47 years old, and I NEVER tire of Max and Ruby. One of my favorites is Max Cleans Up. I love the relationship between Max and Ruby too. Lucky for me , I’m an early childhood educator, so I have many an opportunity to share Max and Ruby books with the young children I teach.

  8. Erika says:

    My daughter is 8, and we *still* occasionally read Runaway Bunny when she’s really upset and needs something to reassure her. When she was much younger, I read Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, and Big Red Barn so often that I had them memorized–and when I had insomnia, would recite them to myself until I fell asleep.

  9. G.Perry says:

    I just read it. Love it.

  10. Karin Z. says:

    Although I read Goodnight Moon to my 3 older children when they were young, I hadn’t heard about Runaway Bunny until I found it at a used book sale. One page was scuffed, but my 4th child loved to share reading it with me. We even changed roles and she read the mother’s lines. It was the first book she could read on her own and took it to school to share with her class. She is now 10 and my oldest is 25. I still have that copy along with Hug and Dear Zoo which I will hopefully be able to share with a grandchild one day. I’ve enjoyed following your site and am reading several from your lists as my summer reading (I’m an elementary teacher). i also love reading the comments from your fans. Thanks for the memories!

  11. Tess W. says:

    Margaret Wise Brown has such a gentle way of writing. This is such a great example and Clement Hurd’s lovely illustrations add to that idea of dreaming, of floating above reality and in a world of make-believe.

  12. Laura W. says:

    I found an old copy of Morris’s Disappearing Bag at a library sale and was enchanted by the characters and the illustrations. I’ve been reading it since birth to my now 7 month old and she loves when I do the voices of all the bunnies. This story will resonate with younger siblings and anyone who feels left out or told they’re “too young” or “too silly” to do something. My favorite line happens when Morris’s older siblings are trying to figure out where Morris has gone. His older sister, who had just gotten a beauty kit for Christmas, wonders out loud: “Do you think he’s so beautiful that we can’t see him?” Be sure to find the 1975 version. The book was reissued in 2001 and the illos are not nearly as detailed and delicate.

  13. Katie says:

    I don’t recall reading Margaret Wise Brown’s books as a child, though I’m sure I must have had some exposure. As a parent, however, I have nearly memorized many of them! I am struck with her innate ability to connect with what young children need and desire in a book. The world that she creates through the Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, and Big Red Barn is a world that my children and I have found much comfort and solace in during our nightly readings. Clement Hurd’s beautiful illustrations add a real sweetness to this particular text. The alternating color and black and white illustrations create a pattern that my children enjoy.

  14. G. Perry says:

    One absolutely great thing about seeing these books posted again is that I am reminded that I need to READ it again, and or “Oh yes! I meant to buy that one.”

    Off to read this again.

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