Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic
The Country Bunny And The Little Golden Shoes
By Du Bose Heyward, pictures by Marjorie Flack
I suppose my love for this Easter classic started out many years ago when I read it to my own daughters. And, because it states on the front cover, “as told to Jenifer”, it has special meaning for me. But the story continues to resonate with me in different ways as I continue to read it to groups of children in story hours today – more about that later.
It is, at face value, a wonderful story that engages the reader and listener from the start, with its narrative relating the belief that there are actually FIVE Easter bunnies. And, they must be the wisest, kindest and swiftest bunnies in the whole world. Why? Simple. It is these five that are entrusted between sunset on Easter Eve, and dawn on Easter Morning, with the delivery of eggs for boys and girls throughout the world. It’s sort of akin to Santa’s helpers in Easter regalia.
How does the choosing take place? Well, when one of the five Easter Bunnies is no longer up to the task because of age, Grandfather Bunny who lives at the Palace of Easter Eggs, calls bunnies together from across the whole wide world to pick a replacement. Naturally, every mom is anxious for her bunny to be picked as the replacement. Sound familiar?
Enter the little Country Bunny. She has dreamed, as have all her friends, of someday being picked as one of the FIVE. The snooty big white rabbits in fine houses and the boastful jack rabbits snicker at her aspirations as if to say, YOU? Please dear do let us be realistic! But the Country Bunny insists, “Wait and see”!
Life, of course, has a tendency to intervene on even bunny’s dreams. It tends to do that sometimes with all sorts of sidetracks. For the Country Bunny, motherhood and TWENTY-ONE small ones to care for, puts her dream on hold for a bit, but even that she uses as a means to hone her skill set for the realization of her dream. That it further encourages the taunts of the other rabbits means not a whit to her. The big white rabbits and the Jackrabbits with the long legs, tell the small Cottontail to stop her dreaming. And for a time she does, but within that time, she is teaching her bunnies to be independent. She teaches each duo how to do certain tasks – how to cook, sew, mend, clean, do laundry, sing, dance, dig in the garden, paint pretty pictures and even with the last odd bunny, how to pull up her chair. She’s preparing them for LIFE. Tasks need doing and each has a special task assigned.
Naturally, the word spreads that one of the FIVE Easter Bunnies is retiring and the rabbits stream to the Palace of Easter Eggs for the selection process, which happily she wins as it involves rounding up all TWENTY-ONE of her children in a trice, for the chosen bunny must be wise, kind and swift.
She is chosen for the hardest delivery – to bring a special egg to a young boy who has been ill for a year. He lives on an isolated mountaintop coated with ice. But, if she succeeds, she will bring more happiness than any other bunny. She encounters many difficulties – fatigue, discouragement and even a last slippery fall, even as the goal seems within reach. But this is one determined and BRAVE bunny that, as the Easter dawn rises, is aided in her quest by Grandfather Bunny who appears on the scene with, yes indeed, THE GOLDEN SHOES! Did I mention they have special powers? The scene, as she lays the special egg with its beautiful interior, on the boy’s pillow is childhood itself.
Today, I found so much more in the reading of this classic picture book, as a mother whose children are grown and gone. So many times we, as parents, try to smooth the way for our children, to make it so much easier for them than we had it growing up. We do it of course, with the best of intentions, and with love.
Perhaps we may take a lesson, as I hope our children will, that in the overcoming of difficulties through determination, and dreams realized through hard work, we achieve something of value that is not handed to us and lasts a lifetime. Even illness, though mentioned in the book, with little detail, is not sidestepped. Maybe as the Country Bunny found out, bravery to confront life on its own terms, step by step, despite disappointments and building resilience in the process, are the real GOLDEN SHOES that our children need. Kids will love the little set of detachable GOLDEN SHOES on the cover. Happy Easter from the Snuggery!