I have mentioned often our experience with reading Oliver Twist this year. We finished it several weeks ago, and it was an adventure in reading for all of us. Because of the level of difficulty for my Littles (they are, after all, 9 and 12, and Dickens’ language is not that of Rick Riordan. lol), I scheduled a much simpler book to follow it. I say simple because it’s an easy read for their ages, but the layers of Rabbit Hill were complex enough for a variety of lessons.
Robert Lawson wrote this Newberry Award-winning gem in 1944, just after World War II. It could be considered a precursor to Watership Down by Richard Adams-a rich political novel told from the personification of rabbits. Rabbit Hill has its own style of politics. It gave us a view of what it is to live in a place torn apart by war, when food is scarce and everything needs rebuilt, but Lawson tells it from the point of view of Little Georgie the rabbit and a cast of other animals who are looking forward to New Folks (humans) moving into the house on the hill. It provided an opportunity to discuss WWII a bit, though we aren’t studying that war till next year. It also gave us ample opportunity to discuss the aftermath of war, the scarcity of food and comforts and the fear that things will never get better. The book also touches on accepting differences. We discussed prejudice and how very different our colorful country was in the not-so-distant past. But my favorite part was the discussion sparked by how the people treat the nature around them.
Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we forget that we (even city folk) have a deep connection with the natural world. We get so busy shutting it out we forget that it is an important part of who we are as a species. Rabbit Hill is one of those books that will remind your children to be kind to animals, to live in harmony with their natural surroundings, and to be careful of the footprint they leave in the world. It’s an important lesson that cannot be taught enough.
Rabbit Hill would be fun to incorporate into a nature study. In fact, the study guide I made up involved a lot of nature study activities. The Littles enjoyed it immensely, and it was a nice break for their brains after Dickens.
What about you? Do you have any favorite books that teach your children about our responsibility to the environment? If so, please share them. I am Always looking for someting new to read.