Author: Julie Pearson
Illustrator: Manon Gauthier
Publisher: Pajama Press (April 4, 2016)
I am sitting in Boston airport having had a wonderful ALA Midwinter Conference, and with time to kill I turn to my bulging book bag. My suitcase is maxed out and checked through (probably bursting open in the hold of the plane) and my carry on would best be described as a drag-on, as it is almost impossible to lift.
I have succeeded in lifting it, and have extracted this poignant book about Elliot the Rabbit whose cute features hide a troubled story.
Elliot is a playful little rabbit whose parents love him very much, but unfortunately they have trouble looking after him. When he cries, they can't identify that he is hungry, and when he yells or misbehaves they just don't know what to do. A social worker comes to help and Elliot goes into foster care until his parents can look after him. He eventually comes back, but they still haven't mastered the parenting skills for him to stay. This rotation of foster care continues until finally Elliot is adopted by someone else.
The muted pastel collage style of this book makes the characters very approachable, and there is not a sense that there is a "right or wrong" to the book. Neither Elliot or his biological parents are demonized in the book - the situation just is what it is and the straightforward narrative credits the child audience with having the intelligence to consider the story. It is not an independent reader, rather it is a book that you would read with a child. I imagine during the reading of this book there are a lot of questions, and a lot of opportunities for children to come to grips with the subject matter.
Some may opt out of reading this book to their kids, steering towards cheerier topics, but that would be a shame. Children don't have perfect cheerful lives and they need to know that even if there are problems, there are always solutions. This book is a kind introduction to a difficult subject.
An Australian who lived in Japan with my bicultural family now living in the USA, I believe that there are more different realities than there are books to be written.