I don’t know that my children would agree — and I am not consulting them to find out — but high on the list of favorite read-aloud books in the house where I was the Mommy is The Runaway Bunny. As a mother, as a pillow to the warm small nestling body, as reader aloud and silent, that book satisfied. The rhythmic prose, the colorful illustrations, the balanced structure of the story, all of those contributed to our pleasure. For myself, also, there was the thought-provoking content of the book — the mother bunny who was so reassuringly always present, or was it smotheringly always present? or merely inescapably? Was I oversensitive to feel a kind of chill when I read the mother bunny’s promise, “I will be the wind and I will blow you where I want you to go”? Was I over-identifying with the child beside me in her/his longing to escape that overflowing, overwhelming Mother? The question the book raises is: What about love?
There are no answers offered, unless in the final line of the story, after the little bunny has remarked, “Shucks. I might as well stay here and be your little bunny.” The mother responds — lovingly, patiently, wisely, victoriously, smugly, above all enigmatically: “Have a carrot.”
Have a carrot, I say to my children, and they understand everything I mean. I mean, everything, including love. Whatever else it might have meant, to our children, to their parents, that line constitutes a family chord. It plays us together, and that is one of the answers about love, isn’t it?
From the March/April 1997 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.