Rabbit & Squirrel: A Tale of War & Peas

I like funny books. I like clever books. I like books with classy, quirky illustrations. I like books that come with a handwritten note from the author on an adorable peapod notecard to thank me for reading her “peas offering.” I like books that make kids think without being preachy, preachy, teachy books. And so, I like Rabbit & Squirrel: A Tale of War & Peas by Kara LaReau, with illustrations by Scott Magoon. I like it quite a lot.

Look at those two cute little critters on the cover! Would you believe it if I told you that this short tale has big lessons to teach readers about judging others, making assumptions and accusations, and learning to forgive and admit your own guilt? “What,” you ask, “All this and I get a cute little rabbit in overalls too?” Yes, yes, you do.

So Rabbit and Squirrel are both avid gardeners. They are also neighbours, but the kind of neighbours who have lived next door to one another for ages and have never even said hello. Rude, rude, rude! So when Rabbit awakens one day to find someone has snatched her “leafiest lettuce” she doesn’t waste a single moment and stomps over to give Squirrel a piece of her mind. (Love the fact that Squirrel answers the door wearing his undies and holding his toothbrush). The next day, Squirrel’s tomatoes get plucked and his peas are snapped. So, naturellement, he blames Rabbit. This means war. Why forgive, when you can fight! There is a charming twist in store, as the true veggie-thief is in fact a human gardener, who of course, has a very different perspective on things when she finds the two enemies wreaking havoc in her garden.

It’s not often you find a picture book that doesn’t offer the perfect, sweetness and light happy ending. I really like the fact that LaReau resists the happily ever after. Rabbit and Squirrel do not head off, hand-in-hand, nibbling carrots into the sunset. They do not agree to start an organic veggie co-op together. They fight, and they keep on fighting and we don’t know if they’ll stop. They might stop, “one of these days,” and “grow something new” together. Or not. No promises here, just an ending that’s real. It leaves even young readers with a great opening to discussion and self-reflection.

It wouldn’t be right not to do a little gushing about Scott Magoon’s artwork. The palette is rich and natural and in places, the colours look a bit faded, almost the kinds of shades you’d find on old seed packets. I adore the picture of Rabbit as she clutches the sad remains of her lettuce, with an expression that says, “I am the world’s angriest, most suspicious Rabbit and I’m gonna get you and your sugarsnap peas too.” Who knew a Rabbit could look so pissed off? Love it. You will too.

Reviews from around and about:

Three Silly Chicks
7 Imp
A Year of Reading

5 thoughts on “Rabbit & Squirrel: A Tale of War & Peas

  1. Jenny

    This book sounds great — I am always looking for books that promote friendship and understanding, and books that foster good conversation and this book sounds like it fits the bill! Thanks for posting about it.

    On another note, I’ve tagged you for a meme back at my site…

  2. shelfelf Post author

    Jenny,

    It is a pretty rich book for such a short book. Well worth owning. I’ve never done the meme thing, so this will be my first. See ya!

  3. suzi

    This book is something i would like to check out. It reminds me of a story of my own i thought i’d share- when we moved into our current home, there was a period right after where every morning we would wake up and there would be a rotten fruit smooshed in front of our door. We figured someone didnt like us, or it was some teenager in the middle of the night (or early AM). week after week it became almost predictable…and i began eyeing our new neighbors with suspicion, and feeling unwelcome in the neighborhood. Then one day we realized that the fruit was landing in the same place each time, and since we have a high gate in front of the house, this would call for some seriously good aim. so then on arriving home one time and finding yet another fruit, my boyfriend looked up and wouldn’t ya know it, directly above the fruit, hanging upside down from the porchlight, was the cutest little bat! I had to do a mental apology to all my neighbors for the evil eyes I had given them. We now love our nocturnal tenant, despite the fact that she is a bit messy.
    anyways, the book reminded me of that. a good lesson!

  4. shelfelf Post author

    Yay! It’s Suzi! Thanks for your story. It made me laugh. I’m crazy about bats. I don’t think they’re freaky at all. The illustration in this book is awesome – really understated and funny. I’m so glad you visited. Come on back soon!

  5. F Fuller

    “War and Peas’ by Michael Foreman came out many years before this book. It is a classic. I do think authors should put the work in to come up with their own ideas!

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