A Board Book Every Week – my week-by-week attempt to build a stimulating and diverse library of baby books for a particular new baby.
I Am A Bunny – by Ole Risom, illustrations by Richard Scarry
A Golden Sturdy Book, first published in 1963.
I circled the table in the bookshop several times before I picked this one up. I’m retro myself so I’m not always drawn to retro – it can just remind me of teatime with aunties and embarrassing haircuts and clothing mistakes long-past. The book cover has a vintage colour palette: eye-watering yellow, scarlet, grass-green, and a yellow title font outlined in red – a queasy combo, and the reason I can’t eat cheese and tomato sandwiches.
But I saw the name Richard Scarry and I was curious. I associate Scarry with busy-busy pages crammed with small animals and vehicles and lots going on. Whereas this looked much less frenetic.
It’s taller than most board books but maybe that’s a good shape. The title page has realistic-looking violets, along with Bunny in his dungarees sniffing a flower. (We discover his name is Nicholas but actually he doesn’t need a name.) On the spring spread two kinds of daffodils look like actual daffodils – not just generic dear little flowers – followed by recognisable butterflies, which Bunny chases. So it goes on, with incredibly clear, colourful and calm seasonal spreads while the bunny does simple things like watch frogs and blow dandelion seeds in the air. The page filled with autumn leaves echoes the page filled with butterflies. There’s a rainy scene and a snowy scene. Finally Bunny goes to sleep and dreams of spring.
I love it. Nostalgia for the simple life? Maybe, but I have the feeling it’s one of those books that will get requested again and again. It looks different from other baby books, not just because of the colour palette. I think it escapes being twee because of the accuracy of the nature images. Everything but Bunny looks super-realistic. As a plantsperson I really appreciate this, even if a baby won’t. OK, for UK readers there are raccoons as well as grey squirrels nesting in the trees, but we can cope.
And for the baby “reader”, there’s not too much going on and the language is simple and repetitive. For the adult having to read it a thousand times it may get boring, but there are few books at this level that won’t pall under that pressure – and its charm may just save it! There are animals and flowers and raindrops and pinecones to point out. And good old Bunny appears on every page, very cleverly the same size on each, so lots of opportunity to look and find.