cover image The Rabbit's Bride

The Rabbit's Bride

Holly Meade, Brothers Grimm. Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5081-8

Voluminous cabbage leaves and rolling green hillsides suggest fecund midsummer in this Grimms' fairy tale. Three times, a woman sends her daughter to chase a white rabbit from their cabbage patch. Three times, the rabbit says, ""Come, maiden, sit on my tail and go with me to my rabbit hutch."" In the loose watercolor illustrations, the rabbit is at first a seductive enigma who cannot be seen in his entirety; his long ears extend from behind flourishing plants as the child resists his flirtations. But as the rabbit works his charms, he grows to dominate an entire wordless spread, and the smiling girl rides away on his back. Ultimately, the rabbit insists that the ""maiden"" cook and prepare for their wedding ceremony, and a tight close-up of his angry red eyes complements an image of the child in tears. The honeymoon is over, and so is the girl's game. Meade (Hush! A Thai Lullaby) stays true to the Grimms' ending, in which the bride rejects the groom, but adds an epilogue in which the child leaps joyfully into her mother's waiting arms: ""The maiden's mother was happy. And so was the maiden."" The story becomes a cautionary tale about female destiny, here dedicated ""to all the maidens who take a ride with the rabbit. And who with courage and creativity find a way home."" This ambiguous story makes an odd choice for contemporary retelling, given the groom's lack of affection and the transitory happy ending, but Meade taps its feminist potential. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)