The rabbit-hole golf course by Ella Mulvey
Ill. by Karen Briggs. Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781925266290
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Aboriginal themes. Desert. Australian life. Rabbits. Bush tucker. Rhyme. With an eye to repetition and rhyme, this tale of a group of children going out to the golf course to find a rabbit is infectious, begging to be read aloud, encouraging kids to sing along, make the noises and predict the next lines. I can imagine a group of kids with sticks, beating to the rhythm of the story, adding noise and excitement to the tale being read out loud.
They set off in the big old ute, along the long red road to the golf course, pitted with rabbit holes. Already the excitement of finding a rabbit is infectious, and the children have lots of adventures digging holes as big as they are, finding a kangaroo, looking for rabbits, finding honey ants and maku, until finally, covered in red dirt, they sit around the hole they have dug and wait for tea. The families make tea and damper, and while there have been no rabbits found, they all sleep soundly that night in their swags under the stars.
The repetition of 'Where are all the rabbits?' encourages readers to learn those lines and predict where they will appear, calling out the line as the reader turns the page. Likewise other lines, 'the big old ute', 'long red road' and 'desert of my home' encourages kids to recognise the lines as they appear on the pages, asking them to join in.
I love the colourful illustrations, adding another level of interest and excitement to the story. Children will love picking out the slew of animals pictured in the book, along with things which make it recognisably set in the outback. The humour in the tale is reflected in the illustrations with the children seeking a rabbit so desperately but only seeing them in their dreams. I love the repetition of the opening illustration and the last, a child asleep dreaming of rabbits, although on the last page an actual rabbit appears, possibly having a laugh at the children and their efforts. The community is vividly portrayed, from its dot curtains, snuggly woollen hat, to the scattering of dogs and families working together.
And the endpapers show a mud map of where they are headed to find the rabbit-hole golf course, where no one seems to actually want to play golf (understandably). Karen also illustrated Kick with my left foot, a standout publication in 2015, earning its place on the CBCA shortlist.