A pointed fable on the hazards of competition and the benefits of cooperation.
Published in Europe five years ago but not previously available here, the episode is played out by bunnies who gambol fetchingly through grassy fields in Kaufmann’s stippled watercolors. Binny, Benny, Bernie, Bonnie and Buddy live together, play together and share the food and fun they find—until, that is, a big stranger bunny named Hoppelpopp arrives and asks which one is the “best bunny.” When the others answer that they’re all the same, he sets up a race and other contests so that soon, all but the smallest, Buddy, are aggressively declaring themselves the fastest, strongest, smartest or bravest. When, however, Buddy draws his burrow mates back together to chase off a badger, they see the error of their ways—and Hoppelpopp, ignored, anticlimactically hops away. For all the worthy values on display here, readers will likely be left hanging by the abrupt ending; the big bunny’s evident lack of motive or agenda render him superfluous to the story and irrelevant to its theme.
At best an incomplete discussion starter, without much political or psychological depth. (Picture book. 5-7)