Bunnies on Ice

bunnies on ice 244x300 Bunnies on IceCan everybody say “saturated”? Johanna Wright’s Bunnies on Ice is done in a style entirely different from Inside Outside, and yet the effect is the same: little hands will want to touch these pages. The oil-on-canvas full-bleed double-page spreads have so much texture to them that they are almost palpable. Every time I open the book, my hands give it one more try just in case THIS time I’ll actually be able to feel the painted canvas.

The saturation of the pages matches the little bunny’s passion for ice-skating—this is not a passing fancy. This is a year-long obsession (as evidenced in the extended lead-up to winter here, fully half the book—showing, not telling, young readers just how committed the bunny is and just how long the wait feels until she can get back on the ice).

Note:

  • the ice-blue endpapers.
  • the palette, which when it’s warm is really, REALLY warm, and when it’s cool still manages to communicate both wintry cold and family warmth.
  • the sense of enclosure, safety, security. It’s as if this little bunny is being held in two cupped hands. Open almost any page and see: the walls of the bunny siblings’ cozy bedroom curve right around the double-page spread; the tree’s roots are like two arms that enclose the family’s garden; her many fans (a flock of birds) sit in curved rows around her skating pond. And of course the bunny is often shown inside a circle, whether it is the iced-over pond or the rug in her parents’ room or the tree-trunk kitchen table. This is a loved, secure child who can therefore take risks—such as trying to do figure eights with her eyes closed. 

I’ve seen too many covers adorned with glitter not to have an immediate reaction – “this is a book aimed at little girls, about a stereotypically girly-girl subject, receiving a stereotypically girly-girl treatment.” But here the glitter is used quite sparingly—only on the cover type—and it may even be appropriate, given the story’s focus: the title words Bunnies on Ice literally shine like ice.

Finally, I am guessing there is a lot to say about the actual art technique here. In some spreads, Wright seems to use oils almost like pastels or some other opaque medium on a stick—there’s lots of blurring and blending of lines and color. In other spreads I see an almost watercolor-wash-like effect… but that’s about as technical as I can get. Illustrators, art professors, painters, please weigh in!

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About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is executive editor of The Horn Book Magazine and coauthor, with Roger Sutton, of A Family of Readers (Candlewick). She is coauthor of the Horn Book’s Calling Caldecott blog and has served on the 2008 Newbery committee and chaired the 2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder committee.

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