The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, was published long before I was born (1942), but it’s one of the classics that I will cherish most because of the connection it has with my kids.

The little board book was a new-baby gift when my oldest son was born. It came with a tiny little white rabbit. So, really, that tiny rabbit was one of the first stuffed critters my son ever owned. I read him the story from the earliest days, making sure to make all the noises to interest him… to blow when the mamma bunny becomes the wind to blow the baby where she wants him to go.

So, what have I learned…

  • Escape. The book is an escape–not just because the bunny was running away from everything he knew and loved, but because (for a few minutes) we too could run away–to a mountain, garden, circus… even to fly like a bird (or become the wind).
  • Music. Something about the interplay of words and images was almost musical and poetic. It calmed, and offered solace, even on the darkest days.
  • Coming of age. While the bunny still appears to be quite young (we don’t know how old he is), the book also foreshadows a time when the little one will leave on that journey-to-adulthood. As every empty-nester knows quite well, the kid may be off and about, but there are always moments when we’d still love to scoop them up into our arms and just say that we love them…
  • Hope. It’s one of the most simple expressions of love and hope. It’s a promise, expressed in the most simple of terms. No matter where we find ourselves in this world, that love will never end.
  • Icarus. When the baby bunny becomes a bird and tries to fly away, I’m still reminded of Icarus, that infamous character in myth-and-legend. He flew so high that the wax on his wings melted and he fell. Although I’ve always wished that I could protect my kids from every danger… there’s also the brutal truth that we’re just running after them, trying to teach them and catch them when they fall.

The book came to mean a great deal to me, as I carried it into hospital rooms, doctor’s appointments, to the park and watched him flip through it (as he started to “read” his first stories. I’ve read the book so many times that I memorized it by heart, and I can still the images: the bunny hiding in the garden, becoming a rock on the mountain, becoming a little bird and sailboat, and even flying on a trapeze. But, the best part, of course, is that last page.

In our escapes into books, we just want a happy ending. We want to believe that everything is going to be ok… Which books offer you the greatest escape?


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