Author(s): Virginia Grossman
Ten little rabbits use native American traditions to teach youngsters to count from one to ten.
--"FIVE OWLS," March/April 1991
Hurray! At long last primary school educators and lovers of children's literature have an accurate American Indian book written for primary children. The author and illustrator have made "Ten Little Rabbits" into ten little Indian characters, and this book is a valuable replacement for the old, stereotypical ten little Indians rhyme. The rabbits are not playing Indian but are Indian people with the gentleness, affection, and skills of the ancient ones. In many authentic American Indian stories, animals are able to humanize and are interchangeable with people. Often the main chararcter takes rabbit characteristics while remaining truly Indian and having human-style experiences.
The book begins with one lonely traveler on a travois, followed by two graceful Tewa corn dancers on the next page, and, on the page following, three smoke signalers against a vast expanse of plains. Then, with a bit of humor, four clever trackers look for clues, their tiny size accentuated in comparison with the bear track they find. Five storytellers take readers into the chill of winter as they huddle around the campfire trying to keep warm. Clearly these are not the same rabbits from page to page--each page portrays a different tribe. Additional information about each tribe and the activities portrayed in the pictures is included in the back of the book.
Worries about storms and scenes of childish play intertwine with rich cultural facts. These busy little rabbits depict a well-rounded lifestyle of very human activities. The Kwakiutl animal masks and cedar bark robes and brightly colored Navajo rugs make this book a delightful visual treat. The story's ending, as sleepy little rabbits fall asleep in their traditional Dakota homes, exudes warmth and comfort.
Writer Virginia Grossman and artist Sylvia Long, a Dakota Indian, have created this book with honestly and careful attention to authenticity and beauty, and the result is a high-quality combination of rhyme, culture, and artistic expression that will please children.
--"BOOKLIST," April 1991
Grossman interprets the cultures of various American Indian tribes through a counting book in which the characters are rabbits dressed as Indians. Though this may sound a bit precious, it's not: the gravity of the characters' demeanor precludes any silliness here. Earth tones predominate in ink-and-watercolor artwork that stretches across wide, double-page spreads. The illustrations are interpreted in brief rhymed couplets (one line per spread): "One lonely traveler riding on the plain./ Two graceful dancers asking for some rain." A key to the pictures, found at the end of the book, explains how each relates to the customs or artifacts of a particular tribe. Bits about the tribes may be helpful, but the information given is minimal. Preschool and kindergarten teachers looking for picture books that cut across the curriculum will find this a good way to combine a unit on native Americans with counting practice.
--"PUBLISHERS WEEKLY," Best Books of 1991, November 1991
With striking earth tones, this ingenious counting book blends reality and fantasy in its portrayal of a group of Native Americans--bunnies all--engaged in characteristic activities.
--"SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL," June 1991
Not a book about numbers, but a quiet, respectful survey of some NativeAmerican customs organized through the structure of a counting rhyme, populated by rabbits dressed in traditional garb, from "one lonely traveler riding on the plain" to "ten sleepy weavers knowing day is done." Notes at the back identify each tribe represented (Plains, Pueblo, Great Lakes, Northwestern, and Southwestern peoples), and provide information about the pictures. The rabbits have an earnest charm reminiscent of Marjorie Flack's industrious family in Heyward's "The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes" (Houghton, 1974). In double-page spreads adopting the muted colors of the Earth's own dyes, the rabbits play out their tableaux against ample natural vistas that are undisturbed by power lines, asphalt, fences, or the like. Informative pictures invite group sharing, while the gentle mood suits bedtime as well.
--"AMERICAN BOOKSELLER," Pick of the Lists, March 1991
"Ten Little Rabbits" is one of those books that does lots of things and does them very well. It is a counting book, a look at Native American cultures, an animal story, and even a bedtime book. All this plus lovely, richly hued and carefully detailed illustrations and simple text. A hit for children ages 2-6. (Teachers will love this one, too.)
--"PARENTS," Best Books of the Year
This innovative book teaches kids to count--but that's not all. The elegantly drawn rabbits are shown fishing, drumming, sending smoke signals, rain dancing, carrying bows and arrows, even sleeping in tepees. A respectful yet whimsical celebration of various Native American traditions, the book ends with descriptions of the Sioux, Blackfoot, Hope, Navajo and other tribes.