The Rabbit's Gift by Jessica Vitalis
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Number of pages: 320 pages
Published: October 25th, 2022
Source: Author in exchange for an honest review
Opening Lines: "I used to believe that every story had a hero and a villain."
Quincy and his warren, a community of rabbit's harvest, farm and transport Chou (cabbages that grow human babies) to the people of Montpeyroux in exchange for their purple carrots. This exchange has gone on for a long time, but lately the warren's supply of purple carrots has been dwindling, forcing them to forage in the nearby forest. Quincy believes that the warren should be growing their own carrots and stop providing Chou to the selfish humans. Quincy has always been the runt of the family, so to gain the respect of his peers, he's willing to take a risk by venturing out from the safety of his community to seek carrot seeds. Perhaps he might even be seen as a hero if he can procure some.
Fluerine is the only daughter of the Grand Lumière, a political figure in Montpeyroux who has been grooming her to one day take over her position. But, Fleurine has no intention of taking over the state's business, she doesn't even like politics and so she hasn't even been following the difficulties that her mother has been seeing. How the food costs have been soaring and production has been dwindling. Instead, she wants to be a botanist and attend an academy of science. She's fascinated with sampling the soil and has even tried to grow her own purple carrots, without much success. Secretly, Fleurine longs for a sister and hopes that she can make her own exchange with the warren for her very own Chou. But then one day, Quincy sneaks into her shed and steals Fleurine's carrot seeds. Hoping to get them back, Fleurine follows him back to the warren and she ends up stealing a Chou from their garden. One tiny mistake on both sides changes the balance of their once happy relationship and both Quincy and Fleurine must right their wrongs to bring back the balance.
I just loved the beginning of this story. The distinction being made between heroes and villains. How despite stories having both a hero and a villain, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish who's who and that the difference between the two is largely which side that you're on. You see both Quincy and Fluerine think that they're the hero of the story. That they're right in their actions, but as the story progresses, they learn to appreciate what is happening in the others community. They begin to realize that they each have their own hopes and dreams, Quincy's desire to be a hero by saving the warren from starving and Fleurine's longing for a sister and to learn botany. They also realize that they've upset the delicate balance that once existed between them. How the food source of purple carrots and diminishing supply was connected to the people no longer having their Chou delivered. How the once mutually beneficial harmony changes as a result of their actions. The story truly had me thinking about the environment and the way in which small fluctuations can change the equilibrium of the whole system. How we should tread lightly and focus on not causing and further disruptions.
I also loved the dual POV's getting to know what both Quincy and Fleurine were thinking. Fleurine's loneliness was palpable, so her going to great lengths in order to have a sister seemed understandable. It seemed natural she would turn to other things that gave her happiness, like being outdoors and cultivating her own garden, testing soil samples and trying to find a way to grow carrots. But Quincy, he is quite courageous. That despite being the smallest, I thoroughly enjoyed his motivation in trying to provide for and defend his warren.
Overall, this was a lovely story about the delicate balance of nature, appreciation of science, friendship, rabbits and the things that brought them together. The cover is absolutely delightful and engaging and will appeal to children who are interested nature, or perhaps in learning some facts about rabbits. This also makes a lovely companion read to The Wolf's Curse, the authors debut book. I must say I was fascinated to learn that the story was partially based on a French silent short film called La fe aux Chou (The Cabbage Fairy) and the belief that babies were delivered by fairies instead of the myth of a stork delivering a newborn. I can see this making for a fun Earth Day read paired with Tara Dairman's The Girl from Earth's End. **A huge thank you to Jessica Vitalis for the review copy in exchange for an honest review**
I hope you'll check all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge’s blog HERE.