Review of The Last Rabbit

The Last Rabbit 
by Shelley Moore Thomas; illus. by Julie Mellan 
Intermediate    Lamb/Random    288 pp.    g
2/21    978-0-593-17353-4    $16.99 
Library ed.  978-0-593-17354-1    $19.99 
e-book ed.  978-0-593-17355-8    $9.99 

An introductory poem explains that Hybrasil, the mythical island west of Ireland once charted on actual nautical maps, was said to be occupied, during its last documented visit, by a magician and four silver-gray rabbits. From this folkloric mixture of the real, the mistaken, and the whimsical, Thomas concocts a fantasy of a rabbit named Albie who used to be a human girl. Hybrasil is sinking back into the sea, and the magician wants Albie to leave the island so that she may choose her destiny and change back into a girl, as her three sisters did before her. The author is in no hurry to show her hand — it takes several chapters, filled with trenchant rabbit observations and visits to the vast, poetry-reciting Sea, before we learn that the four sisters were sent to the island at their magic-wielding mother’s direction after she and their father were killed in World War II; a few more chapters still before we discover that the magician is in fact the girls’ grandfather. It is in hopes of saving him from the sinking island that Albie agrees to depart. There’s an atmosphere of cryptic connections and enigmatic forces at play just outside the story’s frame, and questions of loss, destiny, and love expand through the heartwarming tale. Soft grayscale cartoons (final art unseen) of Disney-esque rabbits offer a child-friendly entrée to the fantasy.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Anita L. Burkam

Anita L. Burkam
Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkam is former associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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