Hound and Hare (2011), by Rotraut Susanne Berner

This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 17.1

Hound and Hare

Trans. Shelly Tanaka.

Hound and Hare’s underlying message of tolerance is admirable, and one all children need to learn, but in this book the story is not sufficiently engaging to mask the author’s overt moralizing.  The language-play, too, does not engage: phrases like “the dog days of summer, you might say” (11), “stuck here like a pooch in a pup tent” (25), and “raining like hares and dogs” (43) are meant to amuse, but fall flat.  The subtleties of having Harley Hare use canine terms like “This place is going to the dogs” (24) and Hugo Hound use rabbit allusions like “Let’s hop to it” (27) are overshadowed by the numerous attempts at dog and bunny jokes that are less carefully applied.
While the narrative fails to impress, however, the illustrations are delightful.  The coloured-pencil drawings are both simple and expressive. The emotions on the characters’ faces speak more strongly than the words at times, and the detail of setting is just the right level for the younger reader or listener to enjoy.  While a contemporary text, the illustrations remind me strongly of some of my favourite picture books as a child, like Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings (1941), or Syd Hoff’s Danny and the Dinosaur (1958).

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