1945 Newbery Medal: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

Rabbit Hill, by Robert Lawson, was published in 1944 by Viking.

“New Folks coming, Mother—Father, new Folks coming into the Big House!” shouted Little Georgie the Rabbit. All the animals of the Hill were very excited about the news and wondered how things would change. Would the new Folks bring dogs, traps, and guns? Or would they be planting Folks who would care for the land and grow rich crops? It had been years since there had been a garden at the House.

Rating: 2/5

I feel slightly guilty rating Rabbit Hill this low, as I really didn’t dislike it at all. But the 3/5 rating has become my default, go-to rating, which I’ve realized is making distinctions between books harder to figure out. And I don’t think Rabbit Hill is on par with some of the other 3/5 books, Newbery or otherwise, that I’ve reviewed—plus I kinda thought the book was a little ridiculous once I finished it.

Basically, Rabbit Hill is a really nice, feel-good story about field animals wondering if the “Folks” moving into the farm will be good or bad for them. They discover, eventually, that the Folks are the best sort of Folks there are—lovers of animals, determined to let no trace of poison or traps or dogs cross their paths, with a communal idea of living.

Yet, I read the book, and immediately I thought, “Come on! This could never happen in real life!” Now, I know talking animals means that the books is already straying away from reality. But at the heart of the book, Lawson seems to be saying that the best way to farm is live alongside the animals surrounding your farm—more than that, he’s saying that you should go out of your way to protect and feed the animals. So, at the end of the book, the skunk and the fox are fed every night with the scraps the cook leaves out for them, there’s a statue where food is laid out for the rest of the animals so they never go hungry (and never take from the garden), the moles are free to burrow wherever they like, etc. It sounds good in a book about talking animals who can think and have a semblance of a governing body, but the wonder of the book is really lost when you’re an adult thinking how dumb the whole idea of a communal living like that is, and how fast it would fail in reality.

It’s probably a good thing the book is marketed for children, huh?

I still finds lots of wonder in many children’s books, but Rabbit Hill is one where adult sense gets in the way of the imagination. The whole concept Lawson is going for is simply ridiculous to me. It’s a great little farm story, but the concept falls apart as soon as the Folks move in. I would have much preferred to read a story where the animals team up to survive a more cruel type of person, rather than the utopia they ended up getting. Not a particularly enjoyable read for me—Rabbit Hill is definitely one of the weaker Newbery Medals.

However, the illustrations were quite excellent.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2xnR0yF

3 thoughts on “1945 Newbery Medal: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

  1. Pingback: 1972 Newbery Medal: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien | Leaf's Reviews

  2. “It’s probably a good thing the book is marketed for children, huh?” – LOL. At first I thought this might be something I would like, but this book does sound strange/over the top with the lack of human conflict.

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