This book is number 1
because it’s the book that showed me, as a five-year-old and beyond, how a picture book really works.
The simple device of showing little Cottontail and grownup Cottontail in the same powder blue dress help to move the reader through space and time. The defiance shown in the illustration above adds volumes to her retort in the text. There were so many details to pore over – the gilded room heaped with Easter eggs and the intricacies of the housekeeping while Cottontail was away, all in the muted apricots, lemons and browns that made their own confection. No sugary aftertaste though, despite the wise old rabbit giving her magical shoes so that she can give an egg to the boy who most deserved it. I remember skipping or hopping over that bit so that I could get back with her to the dear little house and count her children as well.
It’s in a much-loved state – the corners are rubbed and the Western Australian silverfish have eaten off the spine. But the pages are still bright, and she is still refusing to eat that carrot.
The current climate of re-packaging has not passed her by. Here’s a recent reprint.
My idol, Dorothy Butler, calls it ‘An old book…of singular if inexplicable appeal to the young’ and recommends it for five-year-olds. Babies Need Books gets it right again.