Rabbit’s Snow Dance Review by Catherine Baty
Bruchac, James, Joseph Bruchac, and Jeff Newman. Rabbit’s Snow Dance: A Traditional Iroquois Story. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012.
2. PLOT SUMMARY
Rabbit, with his long and fluffy tail, wants to be able to reach the high branches of the trees and get something tasty to eat. Unfortunately, the branches are too high for him. So, Rabbit wishes for snow, “I want it, I want it, I want it right now!” (Bruchac). The only problem is that it is summer, and of course it should not snow in summer. Rabbit remembers that every year when he sings the snow song and plays his drum that it snows! Off Rabbit goes to gather his drum and play for snow. He rudely ignores all of the other animals protests even though they are not prepared for winter just yet and plays the snow song anyway. Some animals do not mind the snow, but the smaller animals all hide away. No matter how much it snowed, Rabbit was unsatisfied and kept singing the song and playing his drum until all the animals had hidden away and the snow reached the tops of the trees, where the tastiest buds were. It was still not enough snow for Rabbit and he kept playing until all but the top of a single tree stuck out of the snow, and there, exhausted, he took a nap. Overnight, the snow melted and Rabbit, with sleep still in his eyes, tried to walk off the tree, but fell instead! Down he fell, bits of his (previously) long beautiful tail getting caught on the branches as he went down, leaving only a small cotton tail for Rabbit at the bottom. Now, every year after the now melts pussy willows are seen on certain trees. Those are the bits of Rabbits lost tail.
3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Rabbit’s Snow Dance is pour quoi tale. It explains the origins of pussy willows. The protagonist, Rabbit, is selfish. It is his narcissistic attitude that causes him to lose his tail in the end. Rabbit’s story tells readers and listeners that something is to be lost if we put too much focus upon ourselves. The plot is easy to follow for preschool and up, though preschoolers might have trouble understanding anything beyond the surface story. They will enjoy the motif of magical animals as seen in the rabbit who can make it snow, and the use of repeated language will grab young one’s attention. This story could easily be read aloud with or without the book, if the presenter is comfortable with the story. I could see children gaining familiarity with the snow song over time and sing/yelling “EE-OOO! EE-OOO! YO YO YO! YO YO YO!” with the presenter as the story goes on.
The illustrations aid in the storytelling, but they don’t all follow the same style. The first couple of images of Rabbit looks very stylized, as if mirroring a particular format and does not fit with the rest of the art in the book. Though, the art is intriguing and flows nicely with the written words, I cannot help but feel as if the art was made in at least three distinct sets. It is a shame because I feel that if the artist had stuck with one style, it would have really been perfect. A great aspect of the printed page is the type font that was used for Rabbit’s singing. Not only does it successfully draw attention to an important part of the story, the lettering itself adds to the action and screams, “Look at me! I’m fun!”
The cultural specificity is hard to pinpoint, there are several Iroquois nations from which this story could originate. After reading some about Joseph Bruchac, I learned that in his other books of traditional literature he includes a page about the origins of the stories and gives information on how he learned it. Rabbit’s Snow Dance does not include a page like that. I would have loved to learn more about this tale and been able to share that information from the book itself.
A great thing to note though is that he did write to Dr. Debbie Reese about the origins of the story, and the complete entry from American Indians in Children’s Literature can be found (here).
Personally, I love this story, it’s fun and silly. However, more than that, I love that it gives me an opportunity to share some American Indian traditional literature with young children outside of a history class.
4. REVIEW EXCERPTS
“I do think Rabbit’s Snow Dance has a lot to offer as a read-aloud and highly recommend it. I’ll look around for some source info and share it when I get it. Perhaps you can print it out and insert it yourself.” – Dr. Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children’s Literature on December 11th 2012
” This modern retelling maintains their solid reputation for keeping Native American tales fresh. Newman’s watercolor, gouache, and ink illustrations are cheery, flourished cartoons in simple compositions.” – Gay Lynn Van Vleck, School Library Journal on November 1st 2012
“Newman’s watercolor, gouache and ink illustrations are an interesting mix of styles. Some foregrounds appear to be painted in a pointillist manner, and some of the animals are almost manga-esque, lacking any shading in their sharp outlines and flat colors. Kids who are looking forward to a snow day may give Rabbit’s chant a try, but hopefully, they will know when to stop.” – Contributor, Kirkus Reviews on October 1, 2012
Gather other picture books on the themes of the book “patience, the seasons, and listening to your friends” such as:
- Schulman, Janet and Meilo So, A Bunny for All Seasons ISBN 9780375983733
- Henkes, Kevin, Waiting ISBN 9780062368430
- dePaola, Tomie, Strega Nona ISBN 9781481487245
Teach along with other Indigenous stories that bring Indigenous peoples to the present day in children’s minds, such as:
- Child, Brenda J., and Jonathan Thunder, Bowwow Powwow ISBN 9781681340777
- Vandever, Daniel W., Fall In Line, Holden! ISBN 9781893354500
- Campbell, Nicola I. and Julie Flett, A Day with Yayah ISBN 9781566560412
- Hunt, Dallas and Amanda Strong, Awâsis and the World Famous Bannock ISBN 9781553797814
Incorporate traditional storytelling by reading the book multiple times so that the children become familiar with the story. Break up the story into pieces and have the children tell their piece to the class in turns.