This picture book tells the story of a young girl setting off to the outback in a ute, with a group of women and children from her desert home, to try and catch a pet rabbit. But where have all the rabbits gone?
The text is a delight to read aloud, with its use of rhythm and repetition, and the playful integration of sounds, such as the ‘thump tick’ of the children’s hearts as they reach into the rabbit holes. Young readers will wait with eager anticipation to see if the children will find a rabbit in the holes that they dig, and enjoy joining in the familiar refrain through the narrative, ‘Where are the rabbits?’
This is an adventure filled with anticipation and nature play, which will appeal to young children of all backgrounds. For many readers, this book will be an introduction to new tastes, sounds and experiences from the narrator’s desert home – including the taste of ‘maku’ pulled from tree roots, the smell of damper baking around the fire, and the thrill of sleeping in swags under the night sky. This is the beauty of books such as this one – the ability to provide a glimpse into a way of life never before experienced by many young readers, but also, just as importantly, to reflect familiar experiences to those who do live in remote desert communities such as the one in this book.
The sounds and sights of the desert landscape are evocatively portrayed through both the text and illustrations. The illustrations showcase the warm earthy red and brown colours of the land, and the inky blue colours of night time in the desert. Children are shown laughing and playing together with joyful abandon.
This book would be perfect for story time sessions as it so warmly invites audience participation through its use of rhythm and onomatopoeia. It may also provide a platform for discussion about food that is derived from the land, and life and culture in remote desert communities such as the one the author describes in the book.
The author, Ella Mulvey, spent part of her childhood in Ernabella, or Pukatja, a remote community 30 km from the Northern Territory border. The illustrator, Karen Briggs, is a descendant of the Yorta Yorta people in North East Victoria.