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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

One Runaway Rabbit by David Metzenthen

One pet rabbit.

One dark night.

One hungry fox.

One Runaway Rabbit tells the story of a curious pet rabbit who accidentally escapes the safety of her backyard, and then must survive in the wilds of suburbia at night.

This clever picture book uses just eight sentences of three words each to tell an entire story, with the help of some equally clever illustrations.

The sentence structure repeated throughout the entire book is both simple and effective. David Metzenthen doesn’t need rhyme or more than a handful of words to tell the story.

It’s simplicity means in just a few readings, even the littlest of readers can read the entire book by themselves. This gives them a huge sense of pride and accomplishment.

Of course, in a story of so few words, the illustrations play a big part in constructing meaning. There are numerous pages where there are no words.

Wordless picture books are incredibly underrated. They can be a wonderful way to build important literacy skills – including listening, vocabulary, comprehension, and an understanding of story structure.

Children love them too, as they can really pore over the pictures and create their own stories. For struggling readers, wordless picture books can help foster their love of books.

Illustrator Mairead Murphy comes from a background in interior architecture. This gives her a keen eye for composition and perspective.

Lulu the rabbit is full of personality, something Mairead says she always finds surprising and exciting, “like meeting someone for the first time”.

Likewise, the sly fox lurks and weasels his way through the pages. Mairead uses clever lines and angles to portray movement and speed, with the fox slinking his way past fences and bushes.

Perspective is also played with within the story. Mairead creates a close-up of Lulu sprinting away, fear in her eye, before the reader is left looking down on the action from a clever map-like viewpoint.

With such sparse writing, it is Mairead’s illustrations that tell the story of how Lulu manages to reunite with her friend in the morning. The double page spread is witty, unexpected and will demand you to slow down and appreciate both the story and illustrations.

Together Metzenthen and Mairead have created a surprising, clever read. It is a book that will foster creativity and imagination.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Allen & Unwin, RRP $22.99

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