Pros: terrific stained-glass-looking pictures, funny tower of animals
Cons: Where did all those animals come from?
In the Hundred-Acre Wood, poor Rabbit, a practical, productive fellow, is always fending off disasters initiated by bouncy, irrepressible Tigger. When Tigger tries to clean up the messes he makes, he has a tendency only to make things worse with his elaborate, convoluted plans. In My Friend Rabbit, a Caldecott winner by Eric Rohmann, Rabbit is not a sedate gardener. No, he's more like Tigger, eager to play and to cook up hare-brained schemes, to the frustration of his friend Mouse, who narrates.
There's very little text in this book. Mostly it's just Mouse saying, at the beginning and end of the book, that Rabbit has a habit of making trouble, even though he means well. There's also Rabbit's repeated reassurance of "Don't worry, Mouse, I've got an idea." The majority of the pages don't need words as Rabbit puts his absurd solution for accidentally crash-landing Mouse's toy plane into a tree into action.
Rohmann has a distinctive style. His animals are composed of thick black outlines filled with bold colors, giving them almost a stained-glass look. But unless the subject of the window is Noah's Ark, I doubt too many stained glass windows incorporate elephants, rhinoceroses, hippos and all sorts of other large, befuddled creatures, not to mention several adorable goslings and, of course, Mouse and Rabbit. The expressions on the animals, especially the pachyderms, are hilarious; they look as they are being dragged most unwillingly. How can one little rabbit move a creature a hundred times his size? And where did all of these exotic animals come from anyway?
Rohmann doesn't worry too much about logic. After all, Rabbit is a very illogical scamp, and that's what makes him so much fun. Gradually, with great determination, he builds his Leaning Tower of Creatures, unwilling to let his friend lose his fantastic toy airplane. But is this a balancing act that is asking too much? How long will it be before the structure tumbles to the ground, making Rabbit's efforts utterly in vain? It doesn't help that while the elephant is on the bottom, the hippo is right near the top, standing on a most unfortunate bear and deer.
My Friend Rabbit is a story of friendship and innovation. Mouse is to be commended for his patience in dealing with a friend who so frequently makes a mess of things, while Rabbit deserves kudos for his creativity and desire to help Mouse. Despite the dangers that Rabbit brings to the table, these two friends are well suited to each other, and joining them on their bizarre but beautiful backyard adventure is a privilege.