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Is there anything cuter than a fuzzy little rabbit nosing about in your clover patch? Or a squirrel carefully checking out his surroundings before burying a nut under a pile of autumn leaves? If we think they’re cute, imagine what your littles think. These adorable rodents give us so many things to teach about: life cycles, mammal diets, winter habits, finding food in spring, saving up for winter. You could easily combine a study about squirrels with a harvest lesson and have a week’s worth of interesting projects and discussions. Because we associate rabbits with spring (thanks to that whole Easter/Ostara thing) you could do the same with rabbit and planting studies. But you’re going to want to have some literature to go along with those lessons because why wouldn’t you? So here are some Lit Mama suggestions that I’m sure you and your littles will love. There are A Lot of them. I will try to keep it to 6. Wish me luck.
Miss Suzy by Miriam Young
Have I ever told you about being very small and going to visit my cousin who belonged to a book club? For a while she got a new book every couple of weeks. I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. We used to spread all those delicious books out on the floor and pick the ones we wanted to read (to be fair, we alternated picks so I had a decent chance of getting at least one of my top picks, and we traded as finished them). Miss Suzy was one of those books. It is a wonderful tale about a grey* squirrel who gets run out of her adorable house by a bunch of red squirrels and winters in a dollhouse in the attic of an old house. There she meets a band of toy soldiers who eventually help her get her tree house back. What I loved about it as a child was the acorn cups and twig broom and firefly lamps in Miss Suzy’s tree house. I wanted to have That Kind of House. I think it will spark your littles’ imaginations just as much.
*I know, I still spell grey with an ‘e’ and no one but the Brits does that anymore. That’s because I was taught, by a very adamant 2nd grade teacher, that spelling it with an ‘a’ was wrong and would get marked as such on the weekly spelling test. Her vehemence stuck with me straight through the misspelling on the Crayola Crayon that changed the spelling here in the States. So color me British. Grey is spelled with an ‘e.’
Leo the Lop by Stephen Cosgrove
Leo the Lop is another book I remember well from those visits with my cousin. I loved the Serendipity Series for Robin James’ amazing illustrations, but this particular story is a wonderful reminder to littles to love themselves for who they are and not try to be someone else. I have a female lop-eared rabbit now who is called Leo. Because you can’t have a lop and not name it Leo. It’s in the rules.
Morris’s Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells
Poor Morris. All he wants is to share the Christmas toys with his siblings, but none of them will trade their cool toys for his stuffed bear. So he spends a disappointing Christmas morning until the disappearing bag changes everything. This is another childhood favorite of mine, because I loved it when Morris finally got to play with his sister’s makeup and his brother’s hockey gear, but also because I wanted a disappearing bag. Because that would be cool. To, you know, just disappear. Hm. Sometimes one of those would come in handy even now!
The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter
Are you kidding me? Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin… Lots of wonderful and beautifully illustrated stories here about squirrels and rabbits both. This would be an amazing addition to any library, let alone any unit study. I still call all the wild rabbits Peter when I catch them in my garden. Because they are just as wily and persistent as Peter ever dreamed of being.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
I can’t resist recommending this book any more than I can stop telling you to read To Kill a Mockingbird. The wondrous thing about Watership Down is not only is it a great story with an intriguing message, your littles can learn quite a bit about rabbits in the reading. Mm hmm, Watership Down. Read it. Several times.
The Rift of Rime by Steven L. Peck
If your littles enjoy rich fantasy, you can’t go wrong with this awesome squirrel tale. (See what I did there?) Pinecone, the hero of the story, is a poet, so that should say enough about it. But the author is an ecologist and a bioethics teacher and while the story is about warriors it is also about nature, both squirrels’ and humans’. Very imaginative with an amazing message about war, this book is sure to draw your littles in.
I did it. Kept it to 6. But can I just mention that Stephen Cosgrove has a squirrel book in the Serendipity series, too, called Squeakers? Ok. I’ll shut up now.
Oh, and that whole spreading the books out on the floor and spending hours trading and reading them together? I’ve made it a point to make that a habit with all my littles. In fact, that sounds like a good way to spend a summer afternoon…
Day One: Donkeys Day Two: Summer Day Three: Water Day four: Insects Day five: Owls
Day Six: Bears Day Seven: Winter Day Eight: Poetry