A debut children’s book that features an inquisitive animal and his colorful circle of friends.
Montgomery Rabbit, a house bunny, has never ventured beyond his white fence, content to “play in the green grass” with a girl in “dusty boots.” When he spies another rabbit on the other side of the fence, his curiosity is piqued, and his adventure begins. Little’s quaint tale, augmented by Wenzel’s naturalistic paintings, calls to mind the exploits of Peter Rabbit and Winnie-the-Pooh. Although Montgomery and his friends speak to one another and express human emotions, they look and behave like real, reach-out-and-pet animals. They face realistic, although not too scary, challenges, from a coyote’s “jagged yellow teeth” to a hawk’s ominous shadow to a rattlesnake in the grass. Each chapter offers a new escapade in Montgomery’s quest to find the raspberry patch beyond the pond. During his journey, he asks for directions from three dogs (“They had long, droopy faces, flat ears, and short legs”) and stumbles across a spectacular rose garden and a magisterial yellow and black butterfly. His comrades include Bentley the bunny, a kind duck, and a helpful horse named Whisper. From them, however, Montgomery receives quite a few moralizing platitudes, including “You just have to find your own wings” and “Every experience shapes who we become.” Details of how Montgomery’s encounters transform his character would have been much more intriguing. When he reaches a surprising decision toward the book’s end, he doesn’t seem to have evolved enough to make his choice believable. Little’s text often enlivens the sights, sounds, and scents of the lovely rural setting captured by Wenzel’s gorgeous, masterly illustrations. But a tendency toward adjective overuse (“red juicy raspberries spilling over onto the green velvet grass”), clumsy constructions (“The sounds of the forest were haunting”), and clichés (rabbits “as quiet as mice”) interrupt the story’s flow. Nevertheless, Little’s plot moves along nicely, and every character adds charm.
A sweet, if slight, story about a rabbit’s search for raspberries that relies too heavily on moral platitudes instead of character development.