Dorea Kleker, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and Patricia Castrodad, Caguas, Puerto Rico
In addition to the many ways we have all experienced the loss of loved ones, this year of turmoil has brought collective death front and center. From Black lives taken by police brutality to those lost in recent fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters to the approximately 1 million lost worldwide to Covid-19, death surrounds us. This week, we continue to look at books that put emotions at the heart of their stories. Rabbit and the Motorbike offers a gentle yet poignant look at what happens when we lose a loved one and the many feelings we face in moving forward.
DOREA: As I read Rabbit and the Motorbike to my young son recently, we were able to talk about the many complex emotions that come with losing someone–not just the pain but all the feelings that accompany us as our own lives continue without this person in it. Rabbit adores Dog; he looks up to his older friend and welcomes the stories of motorcycle adventures into his less adventurous life. One day, Dog is gone, but has left Rabbit a gift. Rabbit doesn’t understand why his friend would leave his motorbike to him as he has no interest in ever traveling away from the safety and comfort of his home.
The motorbike sits and sits, and as the days, weeks and months pass, Rabbit is finally able to articulate his feelings, “Because I’m scared, he told it [motorbike] one night, as if it had asked a question” and with this, Rabbit is able to begin to consider a new way of moving through the world, “Okay, he said softly to the bike one afternoon. Just down the road. But roads are long. Rabbit forgot that.”
“Moving on” and “carry forth their legacy” are common expressions when someone has passed away. I appreciate that this book addresses these through the gentle reminder that processing grief is an unmarked route with many twists, turns, hills and valleys. Rabbit wants to remember and honor his friend, but it takes time for him to choose to journey; even when the first steps (or miles) are taken, the road is still a long one.
PATRICIA: As I read this, I thought of our conversation last week about Small Things, and the importance of, as you wrote, “the raw honesty with which the story is told and shown”. Children’s literature invites us to dialogue about instead of protecting children from difficult topics. A great example is you and your young child reading this book together, honoring and providing a space to talk about the complexity of losing someone and all the emotions that entails. In many ways, this is, perhaps, just like rabbit–feeling scared but also taking risks. Taking risks is one response to feelings, specifically being afraid. You either can move- take the risk – or freeze, stay where you are. Rabbit took the risk and rode the motorcycle to new journeys. What a wonderful and deep way to reflect and dialogue with children on what we do when we feel.
Title: Rabbit and the Motorbike
Author: Kate Hoefler
Illustrator: Sarah Jacoby
Publisher: Chronicle Books
PubDate: September 10, 2019
Throughout October 2020, Dorea Kleker and Patricia Castrodad give their takes on picturebooks that contain a theme of Emotions. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!