CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 36. . . .May 20, 2011
Hound and Hare.
Rotraut Susanne Berner. Translated by Shelley Tanaka.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2011.
75 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
This handsome and substantial storybook was originally written in 2009 by an author described as “one of Germany’s most distinguished author-illustrators.” The translation is done by Groundwood editor Shelley Tanaka.
We learn right at the start that:
This is a story about Harley Hare and Hugo Hound. They live
In Great Bone, a little village beside a river.
Harley and Hugo see each other at school every day.
They are interested in the same things. Even so, they
never say a word to each other.
Why? Because the Hare and Hound families can’t stand
No one knows the origin of this family feud, but Harley is continually warned off associating with the Hounds, and Hugo gets the same advice from his parents about hanging out with the Hares.
Sunday is everyone’s day off from taunting and badmouthing the enemy. This particular Sunday is also the day of the big race. Harley and Hugo are, of course, forbidden to participate, but both sneak off to join in. They fit right in with a field which includes a fox, a raccoon and a cat.
When a storm breaks, Hugo and Harley are the only competitors to continue running. They are too far away to hear the announcement about the search for a missing Pippa Pig, and then they, too, get lost in the wind and rain. They band together to find the path home.
“Look!” cries Hugo. “Someone is sitting under that tree.
The rain has flooded the meadow!”
“It’s Pippa!” Harley says. “Shall we dog paddle?”
And they both pull off their shoes and jump into the water.
When they get back to the big tent with the cold and miserable Pippa, they are celebrated as heroes, as well as being jointly awarded the prize for the race (as the only runners who kept going, it seems). The prize is a pair of roller skates that they share on Sundays, with each putting on one skate and skating together.
The ending is facile in a way only a book for young children can be: a dispute ingrained for generations done away with because of one rainstorm? And does the entente truly extend to the rest of the families in a way more meaningful than watching the other tribe’s offspring roller-skate? Nevertheless, there is a lesson here about working together and getting along.
Berner’s illustrations are done with pencil in bright primary colours and a scratchy, shading technique that makes them seem more informal than unfinished. Although the characters are clearly animals, they all are curiously humanoid in stance and expression (Mrs. Hound standing with an apron on and stirring a pot; Olivia Owl on her raised judges’ stand at the race, speaking into a microphone.)
The format makes Hound and Hare look like an early chapter book, but it is more an illustrated story for 4 to 7-year-olds. Recommended for school and public libraries.
Ellen Heaney is Head, Children’s Services, New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.
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