In “Because of the Rabbit,” by Cynthia Lord, fifth grade is about to begin, and Emma is really nervous. Emma feels as if the emotions Excited and Scared are in a race, and they are about tied right now. But her fears are not just about the first day back to school; it’s also going to be her first time ever at a public school. Emma was homeschooled with her older brother Owen until a year ago when Owen wanted to try public high school. Emma was sad because she would not be able to go kayaking and play around with Owen after they finished their lessons, but she did not want to stop Owen from going to public school by telling him how she felt.
It is the night before school begins when Emma’s dad, a game warden, gets a call that a wild rabbit is stuck in someone’s fence. Emma goes with her dad to help the rabbit. Instead of finding a wild rabbit, Emma is surprised when they find a little honey-colored bunny, maybe someone’s pet. They decide to take him home for the night and take him to the animal shelter the next day.
The next day at school, Emma is miserable. She does not have any friends, she cannot find her way around the school, and she just wants to go home to Lapi (she named the rabbit after Monsieur Lapin, a mischievous rabbit in the stories her Pepèré used to tell her). Each four-person table team in her class is assigned to do a presentation. One of the girls in Emma’s table group, Iris, takes charge, working only with her friend, Leah. Emma is left to work with a boy named Jack who has some sort of special needs and is always blurting out facts about the topic that is being discussed.
When Emma gets home that day, she cries to her parents, saying she wants to go back to homeschooling, but her mom suggests that she give it a little time. Emma and her dad bring Lapi to the shelter, and the lady at the front desk checks for any reports about a lost pet, but no one is missing a rabbit. Emma asks her dad if she can keep him, and if they get a report about him at the shelter, she’ll give him back to the owner. Her dad finally says yes, and for the first time all day, Emma is really happy.
Emma has to invite Jack over to work on the presentation. She still does not like school and still has not found the perfect best friend she is looking for. How long will it be before her mom lets Emma go back to homeschooling? Will she get along with Jack?
This book is excellent for fourth and fifth graders but can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It is good for classrooms and read-alouds. When Emma has a hard day at school, she looks forward to going home and spending time with her rabbit. It helps calm her down and takes her mind off of school. And they love each other. If you are a person who wants a great book about animals and how much they can help you in hard times, this is the perfect fit for you.
Reviewed by Jamie L.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Scholastic Press, the publisher, for review purposes.