I came across this book by chance. Because it is the Easter season, the number of bunny-themed books on display at the book store had risen dramatically. I was so glad for this happy coincidence because, by the time I finished reading this book, I felt like I had been wrapped in a soothing hug. The Rabbit Listened is not verbose nor does it contain the most brilliant, dazzling colors, but everything about its endearing simplicity works in its favor to create a picture book with a meaningful message.
In Cori Doerrfeld’s The Rabbit Listened, a young boy named Taylor decides to build something with his blocks. He works very hard and is proud of what he is able to accomplish. Then, out of nowhere, a flock of birds collide into his block castle and everything crashes. Taylor is disheartened. Various animal friends of Taylor come along with a mindset of wanting to problem-solve the situation for him. The chicken wants him to talk about it; the bear says he should shout it out; the elephant says he should remember it. It is clear that the animals have a desire to help but, when Taylor doesn’t feel like engaging with their advice, they leave.
Quietly a rabbit approaches Taylor. The rabbit does not offer Taylor any advice, he simply sits in silence with him. When Taylor finally does start to talk, therabbit just listens. Taylor goes through a full range of emotions, going through all the things the other animals said he should express. The rabbit never interrupts, the rabbit is just there. By the end of the book, Taylor is making plans to build again, something even bigger, and he is excitedly looking forward to it.
I think this book is great, because it is an unassuming way of talking about the difficulties of dealing with emotions. I feel like the majority of people might not know how to be a source of comfort for others during difficult times. I certainly struggle with it. Despite a desire to want to help and ease the pain of others, we just might not have the tool set for doing so. Schools don’t exactly go about teaching compassion and comfort the way they do math and science. Parents try their best, but nobody has a perfect answer. Many of us can easily become like the other animals in the book, trying to suggest what we believe will help, but perhaps not what the person needs at that time. Sometimes, we just need other people to be there. My favorite line of the book is: “Through it all the rabbit never left.” It is such a straightforward response to Taylor’s early plea not to be left alone. In conjunction with the illustration, that one sentence shows us the rabbit’s patience and kindness.
I believe this book would do well with all ages. The effective use of blank space draws your focus to the characters. The short sentences contain such impact, that they imbue a relatively short story with a poignant undertone. The reader can read as much or as little into this book as he/she wants. It can be about getting back up again, a highlight on expressing emotions, a lesson on comforting someone, or just a story about a kid, some other animals, and a rabbit. I hope there are more books like this out there, simple reminders of compassion and that “sometimes hugs say more than words.”