My own children had turned into cynical teenagers by the time award-winning and prolific author Cynthia Rylant published her picture book, Bunny Bungalow, so it was fresh to me when my husband brought it home from the library to share with our little grandson, Nolan.
Long term, Nolan bonded to this book more than any other. The charming illustrations by Nancy Hayashi depicting this cozy bunny family living their lovely, peaceful days and nights, seemed to enchant him.
Everything’s nice at the Bunny Bungalow, where top priority is enjoying pleasant pastimes such as frolicking in the grass, gardening, and listening to loving parents reading you books. The height of naughtiness presents in a double-page spread of the bunnies picking cherries off a tree and then, as Nolan gleefully interrupts each time, “Why squishing them with their toes?” We always stop and discuss how it probably feels good and, also, they are shown eating some. They’re not wasting them all.
It turns out, though, this cherry squishing was not the most questionable activity in the book. Maybe we should have paid more attention to Mama Bunny’s stern look at the bunny gaily jumping on the bed, because three days before Nolan’s 4th birthday, he tried this trick at home, fell off and broke his leg.
With a child hobbled by a cast and a new baby granddaughter arriving, I had a brilliant idea. I took down this new baby's mother's mainly unused dollhouse from a top shelf and began refurbishing it as our own Bunny Bungalow. Make no mistake, I did this for myself, and what a great time I had, finding vintage dollhouse furniture on line, painting it, applying tiny rose decals.
It all came from Etsy—a little bed from Denmark, a painted set from Germany, a lawn chair from Ontario, other pieces from Michigan, Florida and California. Each package arrived like evidence of kindness out there in the world—the tiny furniture careful packed, and always with a nice note of good wishes from the sender for the receiver’s project. That’s what I love most about Etsy, the real people out there, everybody sharing in these creative pursuits.
So far my strategy of calling this Gramie’s Bunny Bungalow is paying off. Grandchildren can sidle up with interest and feel privileged to join in the project. So much more enticing than being given the results of a lavish project made by an adult and be told, “Aren’t you impressed? Aren't you beside yourself with gratitude? Now get busy and play with this!”
So thanks, Cynthia Rylant and Nancy Hayashi, for this lovely book and the inspiration it provided. It’s my feeling that the authors, illustrators, and publishers of the finest of children’s books are not given enough credit for the absolute magic that’s required to make a child want to return to a particular book again and again.
LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM
January 31, 2018