The Rabbits - John Marsden & Shaun Tan

I purchased 'The Rabbits' from the State Library shop this week.  It was in the children's picture books section, but so far I've found that when it comes to Shaun Tan, the fewer the words in the book, the older you need to be and the longer it takes to 'read' it.  It was also interesting to read this, having read John Marsden's 'Tomorrow When the War Began' series when I was much younger, which seemed to promote guerilla resistance.

I found this book quite dark but more blunt than I would like.  Whereas 'The Arrival' could be more widely applied to stories of migration, 'The Rabbits' was clearly about Australia (gum trees and billabongs were mentioned in the text).  Particularly unsubtle was '...and they stole our children' (which makes me a little disappointed in Marsden).  I was also somewhat amused (L: rabbits are rather prolific) but concerned by the use of 'rabbits' as I understand they are considered vermin and have a particularly negative history in Australia.

On the other hand, I still think Tan is an excellent illustrator, and I think he has softened Marsden's words through his images.  I also really like the toffy rabbits in their commissariat uniforms and the lapine agricultural machines.

I know someone who found this book offensive and too political for 'children' - but I don't think this is a children's book.  What are your thoughts?

Here are some excerpts:

The rabbits came many grandparents ago.
At first we didn't know what to think. They looked a bit like us.
There weren't many of them. Some were friendly.

They came by water.

They didn't live in the trees like we did.
They made their own houses.
We couldn't understand the way they talked.

They ate our grass.
They chopped down our trees and scared away our friends...

and they stole our children.

Who will save us from the rabbits?

This particular image is used on the front cover and one of the reference images used is a painting of James Cook landing at Botany Bay - E.P. Fox.  Spot the similarities?

Images from http://www.shauntan.net/books.html


FJE said...

I think the art is incredible, I find the use of perspective intriguing and exciting - reminiscent of the Surrealists (Dali in particular), but even more interesting.

I have noticed a few thinly veiled encouragements toward guerrilla uprising for the aboriginal peoples (Koolism's recent single Can't Stand It, an allegorical column by Phillip Adams in The Australian Magazine where aliens come down, friendly at first, then stealing land and children, ending with something like '...and then we fought back') from non-aboriginal people.

HG said...

Koolism 'Can't Stand it'


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