23 November 2009

Review: The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan

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.

The Rabbits at Powell's
The Rabbits at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Lothian, 1998
ISBN-13: 9780968876886

Challenges: 100+, 999, Clear Off Your Shelves
YTD: 83
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+


Sandy Nawrot 11/23/09, 7:17 AM  

That artwork is stunning. My kids are beyond picture books, but I always like to bring suggestions in to our librarian. Thanks for the highlight!

nomadreader 11/23/09, 8:39 AM  

I love Shaun Tan's work. I'll have to request this one too!

bermudaonion 11/23/09, 9:41 AM  

Wow! You've made me really curious about this book. I think I know the perfect person to recommend it to.

Margot 11/23/09, 9:42 AM  

Sandy and I are on the same thought/word wave as STUNNING is all I could think of when look at this art work.

Jenn's Bookshelves 11/23/09, 9:54 AM  

I recently introduced Shaun Tan's work to my son. He gets lost in the vivid artwork. I cover up the words and ask that he create a story based on what he sees. I need to get him to write down some of what he's come up with. It's pretty amazing!

farmlanebooks 11/23/09, 10:26 AM  

I have heard Shaun Tan's name mentioned a lot recently, but have never seem any of his pictures before. They are amazing! I'll have to try to find some.

Julie P. 11/23/09, 3:15 PM  

This is definitely not your usual picture book -- how very interesting!

Bart's Bookshelf 11/23/09, 4:34 PM  

Saw this one, when Chris reviewed it some months back. At the time I hadn't 'read' any Shaun Tan, but I was (and still am) very much an addict of John Marsden's Tomorrow Series. His name alone made me want this one.

Now that I have discovered Tan for myself, it's moved up to needing this book! ;)

Alice Teh 11/23/09, 8:42 PM  

What an interesting concept. I like the illustrations and I think this is indeed a good book for discussion with our children (I don't have any but I would definitely do that if I have). :)

Marg 11/24/09, 5:01 AM  

I am so glad you liked this! I was feeling the pressure. I enjoyed this a lot, and was quite challenged by the political nature of the book, but as usual loved Shaun Tan's art.

Jenn, I gave my son The Arrival. There are no words, just illustrations, and asked him to tell me the story that he saw.

Michelle 11/25/09, 12:34 PM  

I read The Arrival over the Readathon and thought it was beautifully done. Now I know how wonderful he is and adding in Marsden only makes it all that more definitive that I'll be grabbing this one to read as well.

jenclair 11/26/09, 7:36 AM  

Lovely illustrations! I'll look for this one!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 11/27/09, 11:59 AM  

thank you for the recommendation - the art and themes in the book appeal to me.

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