“I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.”
I am sure I’ve read these words over a hundred times. They begin Ole Risom’s board book, I am a Bunny, illustrated by Richard Scarry, a book that introduces very young children to the rhythm of the four seasons. The words are dear to me because their rhythm gently rocked my son and me into a love of reading together, thirty-seven years ago. Each time I read that story to my infant son, the familiarity of the story’s cadence was reassuring, akin to the comfort of knowing that the seasons repeat, year after year.
Long before my son was six months old, his eyes and ears stayed focused on the images and words for the length of the story (which takes less than two minutes to read, with pauses on each pair of facing pages). By the age of seven months, he had learned to turn the pages in anticipation. He pointed to the daffodils, birds, and falling leaves so that I would say their names again. He would point to Nicholas, dancing with the butterflies, and I would laugh, saying, “Yes! Nicholas looks so happy to be with those butterflies!”
The bright colors and easily distinguished objects on each page enticed my son to point and learn, without that learning process needing to be a conscious intention for either of us. Infants and toddlers are simply knowledge sponges, and books open a wide world of learning opportunities to them that they could never have if merely exposed to their everyday physical surroundings.
The best board books are illustrated in a way that mirrors a very young child’s ability to focus on a few objects or a single action at a time. Nicholas says, “In the spring, I like to pick flowers,” and that narration is complemented with an illustration of an expanse of daffodils and dogwood flowers, with little Nicholas tucked amidst this abundance of yellow and white, holding a single daffodil: a simple illustration with a single act. Just right for a very young child to grasp and enjoy.
I’ve given copies of this book to my nieces and nephews, to my great-nieces and great-nephews, to my granddaughter, and to the grandchildren of friends. It’s a gift of love with a strong emotional connection for me. I am the book aunt and book grandma and am delighted to be so. I give books for no reason other than to share my love of reading and to say, “I love you” to a child. I Am a Bunny is a book that should be part of every young child’s life, read to them lovingly and repeatedly.