Monday, March 24, 2014

PBD: The Rabbits


Yes, this book has been around a bit, but I am teaching dystopian fiction in my undergraduate children's literature course and there are few examples (understandably so) of this genre in picturebook form. This one is close. In this story from Australia, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, rabbits are used as a metaphor for the colonization of indigenous peoples, in this case the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. However, the story could be seen as a metaphor for any type of colonization of native peoples.
Tan goes to great length to explore historical associations with Australian art (Cook's landing at Botany Bay) for his own illustrations. The story certainly hinges upon knowing a bit of Australian history (for example actual rabbits invading the ecosystem in AU), but this can be brought into the discussion with minimal preparation.
The sing-song language used in the text is sparse but enjoyable to read aloud. The illustrations require close examination to understand their relationship to Aboriginal art and the meanings behind this story from down under.

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