August 21, 2020

Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbittown

Written and illustrated by Lori Doody
Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides
44 pp.
Ages 3-6
July 2020

This new picture book from Newfoundland's Lori Doody is a true allegory about a multicultural society, emphasizing the precarious balance of acceptance of self and community, of staying true to oneself while trying to fit in.

From Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbittown by Lori Doody
In Rabbittown, a town alive with colour, all the bunnies know each other.  Then Mr. Beagle comes to town and opens up his convenience store. Because the bunnies–this is Rabbittown–"didn't know what to think of him," Mr. Beagle's business is slow. At the same time, mittens begin to go missing. Having a "good nose for sniffing out trouble," Mr. Beagle goes on the hunt for the lost mittens.
From Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbittown by Lori Doody
He prowls the streets and businesses and eventually detects an odd scent in Rabbittown, finding one "fishy" bunny.  When this rabbit is revealed to be a cat who'd just wanted to fit in to the neighbourhood and was borrowing mittens for his kittens who kept losing their own, the community comes together to embrace the new arrivals and any others who decide to make Rabbittown their home. 

From Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbittown by Lori Doody
Rabbittown, with its Hare Salon, Hop's barbershop and Hoppington Post, reflects a community that, on its surface, appears to be segregated but is not. They may be different species in a town settled by rabbits but it becomes evident that all belong and are welcomed.
And now Rabbittown was a neighbourhood where 
any bunny, dog, cat, mouse, squirrel or fox
could find new friends 
and warm mittens.
As she did in her earlier books Capelin Weather (2017), The Puffin Problem (2017), Mallard, Mallard, Moose (2018), and Paint the Town Pink (2019), author and illustrator Lori Doody paints an important message in a charming story. Older readers will understand the complexity of a story about diversity and inclusivity, though our youngest readers may only see a tale about rabbits and a dog and some cats, and be captivated by the colours of Lori Doody's artwork. But, with re-readings of the story, and looking back, as I did, to see whether they can spot the wannabe rabbit from the onset, they will be excited to realize the clues were there all along and will endeavour to fill in more of the story for themselves. As welcoming as her illustrations of bold colours and folksy shapes, Lori Doody's story invites the reader into a community where everyone and anyone can reside and be accepted.

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