Picture book love: The Rabbits

The Rabbits

 

The Rabbits, written by John Marsden, illustrated by Shaun Tan, Lothian Books, 1998

A sparsely narrated yet immensely powerful text, The Rabbits depicts a long ago invasion echoing white settlement of Australia. It emphasises the differences of an unrelenting stream of rabbits arriving by ship to a desert-like land, with those already inhabiting it depicted as kangaroo-like creatures. The rabbits’ unstoppable nature is stated in a clear, matter of fact tone, yet Tan’s complex illustrations delve deeper into their dominance and their impact. The grey-toned industrial scenes and use of black space in many of the later pages depict a harshness, as though colour has been replaced. The final statement and image offers little in the way of hope. A haunting, thought-provoking book that breaks the children-only boundaries of the perceived picture book audience.

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