When author Cori Doerrfeld came to Hoboken last month to read her new book, “The Rabbit Listened” she talked about writing it at a time when some of her adult friends were going through particularly rough stuff. And as she read it, I felt my eyes well up for reasons I couldn’t begin to unpack on the carpet at Little City Books, sitting amongst a room full of little kids giggling at Doerrfeld’s various animal voices.
The sweet tale follows Taylor - an adorable little thing in striped pajamas - as Taylor builds an impressive structure out of blocks, only to have the whole thing knocked over by a flock of crows. (BTW, I thought Taylor was a little boy. My daughter thinks Taylor is a little girl. And while it never really comes up - there are no gender pronouns attached to Taylor - I loved the idea of the character just being themself, boy or girl.) Needless to say Taylor is PISSED and, one by one, a collection of animals come by offering their advice and then leaving a dejected Taylor alone.
First, there’s a chicken who does a lot of talking, then a bear who wants to whip Taylor up into an angry frenzy. There’s an elephant who wants Taylor to remember exactly how the structure looked, so they can piece it back together, and a snake who wants to ruin stuff for others. A hyena, a kangaroo, and an ostrich also come by.
The animals all have their own agenda; no one stops to consider how Taylor feels. That is, until the rabbit appears, gives Taylor some space, moves a bit closer and then simply listens. Turns out, like the chicken, Taylor wanted to talk. Taylor wanted to go nuts like the bear, laugh like the hyena, and ruin stuff for other people like the snake. Taylor also wanted to rebuild and the rabbit stayed for that, too.
If we’re being honest here, It still makes my voice warble sometimes, despite the dozens of times we’ve read it. I have gifted this book a few times since we first read it last month, both to kids and adults. There’s just something really powerful about someone - or a furry little cottontail - that listens during tough times. And while I am constantly encouraging my daughter to speak up for herself and others, it takes a special person to listen to a friend. A lesson for her and for me, I suppose.
Which animal is your favorite? Why?
How would you feel if someone knocked over your tower? What would you do?
Which animal wants to do something kind? What was it?
Which animal wants to do something unkind? What was it?
When you are sad, what animal do you feel like?
Did you listen to any friends today? What did they say?
The next time someone is a sad, what’s something you can do to make them feel better?
If you’re feeling inspired, tag us in some pictures of you and your minis reading. (You can find us at @LittleHoboken + @RaakstarWrites. Also, if I can ever answer any book questions, feel free to holler.)
Mention Little Hoboken’s Little Book Club at Little City Books and get 10% off “The Rabbit Listened” for the month of June or grab a copy on Amazon here.
Raakhee Mirchandani is a writer, editor, and pediatric cancer crusader. Her first children’s book, “Super Satya Saves the Day”, inspired by her daughter and set in Hoboken will be out November 2018.