IntroductionWritten by Du Bose Heyward and first published in 1939, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes remains a favorite, timeless story. It is still being read to children today by adults who remember it fondly from their own childhoods. When one of the Easter Bunnies grows old and too slow, Grandfather Bunny must select the very best Bunny to take his place. Especially for ages 4 years and up, this Easter story, with charming illustrations by Marjorie Flack, shares the tradition of the Easter Bunny with a slightly different slant.
The StoryCottontail, a little country girl bunny, dreams of growing up to one day be an Easter Bunny. What an honor it would be to be named one of the five Easter Bunnies to deliver eggs to boys and girls around the world. However the finely dressed rabbits and the fast jack rabbits are amused and laugh at her dream.
Cottontail grows up and, to her surprise, is soon a mother with 21 young Cottontail babies in her care. She stops thinking about delivering lovely eggs to girls and boys and raises 21 happy, well-mannered bunnies. Then, one day when her rabbits are half grown, she hears that Old Grandfather is going to replace one of the five Easter Bunnies. Is it too late for Cottontail’s childhood dream to come true?
My RecommendationAlthough the text is slightly longer than most modern picture books, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes can be enjoyed on different levels for ages four years and up. Young listeners will enjoy a delightful Easter story about a mommy bunny with 21 children who earns a pair of gold shoes.
On a deeper level, readers will notice elements of class, race, and gender biases. How can a simple country bunny compete with those well-dressed rabbits who live in fine houses? How can a mother bunny with brown fur be chosen over the big white bunnies? How can a mother bunny with 21 children be noticed over the great big male bunnies?
However, wise Grandfather Bunny has an open mind, recognizing that Mother Cottontail must indeed be clever and wise to have raised such happy, kind, and well-disciplined bunnies. He even assigns her the most difficult and strenuous job of all. Cottontail is a mother who set aside her childhood dreams to raise her family, but with patience and determination, dreams can come true...even later in life. The reading of The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes may well become an Easter tradition or bedtime favorite in your home. The 75th Anniversary Edition of The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes features a different cover from the previous editions and a free audiobook to download. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 (75th anniversary edition, 1967, 1939. ISBN: 9780544251977)
The Author and IllustratorDu Bose Heyward is best known for his adult novel, Porgy, which became a play and then an opera, Porgy and Bess, with George and Ira Gershwin. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes was Heyward’s only picture book. Unfortunately, a year after the picture book was published, Heyward passed away never realizing that this charming book, which has remained in print for more than 70 years, would become a classic.
How did Heyward come to write a children's book? At bedtime, he would often share made up bedtime stories with his little daughter, Jenifer, who especially loved bunnies. When she was five years old, her favorite story was about a country bunny who earned a pair of little gold shoes. Marjorie Flack, best known today as the author of The Story About Ping, heard Heyward telling the story and encouraged him to write it down so she could illustrate it.
Marjorie Flack’s colorful watercolor illustrations are detailed (notice the rabbit’s clothing and the Easter eggs), yet simple enough to allow the imagination free rein. The bedroom scene with the 21 bunnies in bed is especially memorable. Young children will want to count them just to be sure they are all asleep in bed.
Source: "Dubose Heyward: An Unknown Children's Treasure" by Lillian Hart, Clemson University, The bunny who stayed with us by Joan Wickersham, Boston.com, April 06, 2012, Birtday Bios: Marjorie Flack, Children's Literature Network)