Two White Rabbits (2015) by Jairo Buitrago

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 21.1.

Two White Rabbits

Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng

Buitrago - RabbitsThis 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 xxx

“The little girl in this story is travelling with her father, but she doesn’t know where they are going,” begins the dust-jacket description. As a premise, it is “moving and timely,” but the story we are given mostly confuses. A child reader, encountering the first few pages, will view it as a counting book. “When we travel, I count what I see…” are the first words the narrator gives us. The next 6 page-spreads are about counting: animals, birds, “people who live by the tracks,” the clouds… But as a counting book, it is disappointing. First, the narrator counts the animals in the barnyard: four hens, five cows, and the dog who travels with them, but she misses the seven chicks watched over by the hens; second, there are 42 birds in the sky, not the 50 she claims to count. Small things, perhaps, but the sort of detail young readers often grab on to and would find frustrating.

The destination-less travel, combined with the expressive illustrations of migrant workers, creates a powerful sense of unease (obviously intentional) and manages to synthesize very successfully the child’s experience of trust in her father with the insecurity of their flight. The soldiers that appear in both the text and illustrations, though, bring up questions that would perhaps be better to have answered. With neither a “whither” nor a (perhaps more important) “why” to the journey, there is too great a sense of troubling confusion. The father and daughter spend some time with a boy and his grandmother, who give the girl two white rabbits along with pitying glances as they leave. So in the end, the girl has “two white rabbits” to count… and we are no closer to knowing anything about their story.