cover image Don't Go Near That Rabbit, Frank!

Don't Go Near That Rabbit, Frank!

Pam Conrad. Laura Geringer Book, $14.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-06-021514-9

When Philip and his sister, Kooch, get a puppy named Frank, crotchety Old Man Hoover next door issues a warning: ""If that dog comes anywhere near my prize rabbit, I'll load my rifle and shoot him dead."" The aged rabbit, Peter, is virtually all that the Hoovers have left of their 50-year-old farm, now the site of a newly developed neighborhood. The late Conrad (The Tub People) propels the plot with penetrating language (""a smile crept across [Hoover's] face and looked as awkward there as fine china on a barbecue table"") as she expertly builds the momentum toward the inevitable conflict. One day, when Frank insists on going out in a heavy rainstorm, the children let him out on his own, and he returns with Peter dead in his mouth. Terrified of Old Man Hoover's rifle, Philip comes up with a plan to surreptitiously return the rabbit to its hutch. Later they learn that Peter was already dead and buried when Frank found him, and that their unintentional resurrection has completely mystified the Hoovers. Debut illustrator English's dense paintings--10 in all--mostly envelop Philip and Kooch in a soft, nostalgic haze; the only sharply focused painting (also used on the jacket) is composed in such a way as to emphasize the vulnerability of the old rabbit. Suspenseful and thought-provoking, this carefully crafted animal story shows people not exactly at their best, but at their most human. Ages 5-9. (June)