Home-schooled Emma learns a lot about classrooms and friendship “Because of the Rabbit.”
Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia
Lord. Scholastic, 2019, 183 pages.
Reading Level: Middle
Recommended for: ages 7-11
Having a game warden for a dad makes for an interesting life, especially if you live in Maine, where the wild moose roam. But it’s just a little rabbit Emma’s father goes to rescue that night, with Emma as his assistant rabbit wrangler. It also happens to be the night before she’s to start fifth grade in public school after being home-schooled all her life. She needs something to cuddle her anxiety away, and a golden-furred bunny (named Monseuir Lapin, or Lapi, after the stories her grandfather used to tell) is just the ticket. She’ll need that reassurance even more during her first few days, where she doesn’t know the rules or signals and the only friend she makes is a boy who seems a little . . . odd. But Lapi isn’t really her rabbit. He’s somebody’s pet, and she may not even be able to keep him.
This quiet story combines normal school-age anxieties with bunny lore to make some gentle points about friendship and persistence. Though nothing overly dramatic happens, young readers should be able to identify with Emma and her anxieties while appreciating her unique circumstances. And it’s never too early to recognize this:
I wanted to keep Lapi mine, because I needed him. In fact, I’d wanted all [my classmates] to be the kind of friend I needed, but hadn’t tried as hard to be the one they needed.
The Author Note is an essay citing the many features of her real life that went into the story—yes, homeschooling her kids, too! Budding young writers should take note: real experiences make for great story-fodder.
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Worldview/moral value: 4.5Artistic value: 3.75Also by Cynthia Lord: Rules
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