The Rabbits, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, is a little hard to describe. It's not really a graphic novel but is more than just a picture book.
On the surface, the book is about the colonization and industrialization of Australia by Western peoples, but it is also the story of any land that was settled by Europeans in the last two hundred years.
On a different level, the book is about the effects of overpopulation and technology on the environment and the loss of natural resources.
Although The Rabbits is the winner of The Children's Book Council of Australia's Picture Book of the Year award, the sparsely told story addresses adult and universal issues.
The oversize format of the book is the perfect way to showcase Tan's amazing art. The rabbits are not cute bunnies but triangular-shaped creatures that walk on two legs and wear the uniforms of Western cultures. The contrast between the original landscapes and native inhabitants with the introduced species and urban sprawl is unmistakable and unforgettable.
Here is a spread from near the beginning of the book:
And here is one showing the effects of unregulated exploitation of the land:
I recommend this book for parents who like to discuss political and environmental issues with their children and to anyone who loves beautiful art. The paintings are incredible, and I will turn to this book many times to study the details.
John Marsden and Shaun Tan both have websites where you can learn more about their work.
Published by Lothian, 1998
Challenges: 100+, 999, Clear Off Your Shelves
Source: Bought (see review policy)