I hesitated for quite a while before deciding to borrow The Flat Rabbit for Noah, and couldn’t quite decide if I should even devote a Friday Flips post to it, because it isn’t your typical children’s picture book. The illustrations are simple, and the text is generally sparse, but that’s about all the similarities between this book and the usual children’s books we usually read I could identify.
The Flat Rabbit deals with a very serious and heavy issue: death. A dog and a rat come across a flattened rabbit on the road, and wonder what to do with her. It isn’t clear how the rabbit got there, or how she became flattened, but my guess is that she either jumped or was run over by a car (some reviews on Amazon lean towards the latter). Her death isn’t explicitly stated, so younger children (like Noah) might have some trouble inferring that from the text or pictures.
What struck me the most was how sensitive and respectful the dog and the rat were towards the deceased rabbit. They could have just left her there for her family to discover, but they took it upon themselves to give her a proper send-off. (They didn’t want to bring her home because it would look like they killed her.) The dog and the rat make a kite and attach the rabbit’s body to it, so that she could “fly”, and they try to imagine what the rabbit would see from the kite. It does seem to refer to the dead looking down from heaven, and implies that they might be happier up there, watching us.
Although the story is told in very few words, the illustrations more than make up for it, and I was left with a deep sense of sadness and melancholy when I finished the book. The author leaves plenty of room for interpretation and discussion, which to me, is important when dealing with such a complex issue, so I really appreciated that.
I would recommend reading this with slightly older children, perhaps aged 5 and above, and using the book to pave the way for difficult conversations about death and the afterlife, especially if you’ve recently encountered a loss in the family. It could be the loss of a pet, not a family member or friend, but I believe that children are sensitive and can be affected by death as much as adults, so it is important to talk about such things with them.
The Flat Rabbit
Check out the previous Friday Flips posts HERE. I’ve also created a photo album on Facebook with some other good reads, and will be updating it whenever I come across more books that we enjoy. Do pop by for a look HERE.
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