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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Because of the Rabbit, written by Cynthia Lord. Scholastic, 2019. $22.99 ages 8 and up

"That night I put Be Yourself and
You Got This back on the windowsill
with the rest of my rock collection.
I felt I'd failed at both of them. I
didn't "get" school at all, and it didn't
even feel possible to Be Yourself. For
tomorrow, I needed something easier.
Maybe Keep Going? That rock came
from the top of Mount Katahdin. Dad,
Owen, and I climbed that mountain one
day, and it was a hard hike to the top."

Tomorrow is Emma's first day in public school. She is a fifth grader; up until now, she has been home-schooled by her mother. The family is a happy one. Emma loves learning with her mother, sharing memories of her French Canadian grandparents and the lessons, they taught about cooking and storytelling, going on adventures with her father and older brother Owen, and accompanying her game-warden father when he is called out on animal rescues.

Emma is missing the good times she had with Owen before he decided to attend public school. She is often lonely, and decides to attend public school in search of a best friend. She is both excited and scared, emotions that change places as she considers the changes sure to happen in her life. The night before her first day, her father is called out to rescue a tiny bunny caught between fence pickets. It takes no time to realize that this bunny is not a wild one. She convinces her father to take it home. They will check the animal shelter after school the next day to see if it has been reported missing.

School is not at all what Emma is expecting. It's noisy, her classmates have already established friendships, learning about one thing just gets under way when it is time to learn about something else, even the lunch room can be lonely for someone new. Jack, a classmate and project partner, offers a seat. It takes no time for Emma to realize that Jack is 'different' and doesn't appear to have many friends. Will Emma have a problem with others if she and Jack are friends? It is a question she asks herself, and a new experience for Emma. 

Filled with warmth and some minor glitches, this book will appeal to many and is a great read aloud for a third or fourth grade classroom. Each chapter begins with a fact about rabbits, and keeps readers aware of the growing love Emma has for 'Lapi', the rescued bunny. Emma learns a great deal about patience, perspective and friendship.

I found the author's note to be a wonderful addition. It lets readers know the connections Ms. Lord made between her life and her writing. It is a great message for kids who aspire to be authors. Written from the heart, with authentic characters and a meaningful context for its target audience.

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