French folklore inspired the unusual plot of THE RABBIT’S GIFT, a fantasy full of purple carrots, cabbage-like plants called Chou, and rabbits. How they all fit together is quite unusual: Humans trade the carrots for Chou. Important because babies are grown in the plant and delivered by rabbits.
Dual narratives include Quincy who is a smaller than usual rabbit. The other voice is Fleurine, a twelve-year old inspiring botanist whose mom is the current ruler of the mythical country.
Fleurine secretly tries to grow purple carrots so she can have a baby sister. Her Maman doesn’t want another child and believes her daughter should stop this infatuation with science and follow in her political footsteps.
Meanwhile, the human demand for babies has dropped, and the rabbits are starving. Quincy decides to take matters into his own paws and sets out for the city, determined to find seeds and let the rabbits grow their own carrots. But that goes awry when he inadvertently leads Fleurine back to the top-secret Warren where the Chou are kept before delivery. This pits them against each other and jeopardizes the future of the entire country––for rabbits and humans alike.
There’s no clear antagonist/protagonist as both Quincy and Fleurine at times can be looked at either way. It’s an engaging way to tell a story as you move from one viewpoint to the other.
THE RABBIT’S GIFT is a story full of friendship, misunderstandings and adventure that is sure to please fantasy readers. The author’s previous book, The Wolf’s Curse, is a companion to The Rabbits Gift. You can read each one on their own as the first deals with end of life while the present is about a new life.
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT THE RABBIT’S GIFT by Jessica Vitalis
- I’m not a big fan of footnotes but the ones provided here are fun and informative. A perfect way to discover more about a character’s perspective.
- Longer chapters are welcome for the established reader as they get wrapped up in a fantasy world.
- Both Quincy and Fleurine are likeable despite their misguided actions. The author does a great job with their character arcs.
- Finding a place in one’s community is a marvelous theme that will resonate with young readers.
- Very lush and impactful imagery throughout. A good candidate for a read-aloud..
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
About the Author: JESSICA VITALIS is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer on a mission to write entertaining and thought-provoking literature. She founded Magic in the Middle, a series of free monthly recorded book talks, to help educators introduce young readers to new fantasy books. She was recently named a 2021 Canada Council of the Arts Grant Recipient and featured on CBCs Here and Now. Her first novel, The Wolf’s Curse, published in 2021, and a standalone companion novel, The Rabbit’s Gift, came out on October 25, 2022.
BONUS INTERVIEW with JESSICA VATILIS
- This book is a stand-alone companion novel to The Wolf’s Curse, meaning that the stories share commonalities, but you don’t need to read The Wolf’s Curse in order to fully enjoy The Rabbit’s Gift. Tell us more about how you came up with the idea for The Rabbit’s Gift.
I knew when I finished writing The Wolf’s Curse that the characters had reached the end of their journeys, but I wanted to stay in the same magical world. I’ve always thought of Wolf as my “death book,” and I was fascinated by the idea of writing a book that examined the opposite. Of course, a “birth” book didn’t feel right for the middle grade market.
It wasn’t until a friend pointed me toward an 1896 French film, La Fée Aux Choux, that I figured out how to make the concept work. La Fée Aux Choux, which is arguably the world’s first narrative film (and made by the world’s first female filmmaker, Alice Guy-Blaché), was lost or damaged, but it was redone in 1900 and features a fairy harvesting babies from cabbages. I reimagined the mythology to fit my story world, and The Rabbit’s Gift was born! It’s set in the same world as The Wolf’s Curse, but it takes place in a different country with different characters and different magical rules.
- The Rabbit’s Gift is written from dual points of view. Quincy Rabbit begins the story by musing that “sometimes the only difference between a hero and a villain is which side you’re on,” while Fleurine’s point of view opens with the admission that she once would have considered Quincy a villain. What do you hope readers take away from this exploration of heroes and villains?
At the start of the story, Quincy sets out to steal a bag of the purple carrot seeds the rabbits need to survive and Fleurine steals a Chou from the rabbits; since their actions set off a nearly catastrophic chain of events, it would be easy to label both of them as villains, but I can also make the case for how they both think they are behaving heroically. Rather than following the traditional model of writing a story with a clearly defined protagonist and an antagonist, I really wanted to explore the power of perspective to help readers understand that things aren’t always as black and white as they might seem.
- Quincy Rabbit comes from an enormous family, whereas Fleurine is an only child. In what way do their familys’ expectations and dynamics drive the story?
Quincy is a runt and often feels targeted by his stronger, older brother. The Committee that runs the Warren also seems to keep a closer-than-usual eye on Quincy. It’s the pressure to want to prove his worth that leads him to set off on his adventure. On the other hand, Fleurine is driven by the constant pressure to follow in her mother’s footsteps even though she’s much more interested in the forbidden study of botany than politics. Their focus on their own unhappiness leads them to make some really big mistakes, and it’s not until they stop trying to change things that are out of their control and learn to embrace the lives they have––especially their friends, family, and community, that they finally find true happiness.
- Rabbits and humans have a symbiotic relationship in The Rabbit’s Gift; in what way does this mirror the real world?
One of the things I was interested in exploring in this book was the interdependence between man and nature and how delicate that balance can be. In The Rabbit’s Gift, human babies are grown in cabbage-like plants and delivered by rabbits, In return, rabbits receive the purple carrots essential for their survival. While humans in the real world obviously aren’t dependent on rabbits for babies and wild rabbits aren’t directly dependent on humans for their survival, human actions like pollution, overpopulation, urban sprawl, and deforestation have direct consequences on the entire planet; I hope this story helps readers become more aware of the extent to which our actions impact our futures.
- The Rabbit’s Gift is set in the mythical country of Montpeyroux, where they are suffering from drought, overpopulation, and hunger. Yet they cling to the status quo and refuse the scientific advances that might be able to help solve their problems, fearing that changes to the natural order might be disrespectful to the Grand Maman in the Moon. What message are you sending to young readers?
This story is intended to be a fun, magical twist on traditional French mythology. That said, it’s always been my mission to write stories that are both entertaining and thought provoking, and this book was written during the pandemic. Although it was written before we had access to the vaccines and boosters that significantly reduce the chance of severe illness and death, the debate about whether these vaccines would be safe and those who would and wouldn’t take them, was already raging. At the same time, I was also reading articles about efforts to combine human and animal cells; while none of these issues are central to the heart of my story, I did want to acknowledge that science isn’t black and white; along with the benefits comes a whole lot of responsibility as well as moral and ethical debates about its safety, efficacy, and our moral obligations.
- Socio-economic issues often come up in your work. Why is this important to you to explore?
My childhood was spent living on the fringes of society. I’d moved nearly 24 times by fourth grade; we stayed in a camper pulled behind our Buick, a school-bus, and a one-room cabin with no electricity or running water. I left home at the age of sixteen and went on to put myself through university and then business school. I’d grown up believing that it was up to me to create the life I wanted to live. That still holds true, but now that I’m older, I can see how my privilege opened doors for me and how our society is set up to reward the wealthy and penalize the poor. It’s important to me to write stories that help young readers begin to understand and identify the imbalances in our society and how it’s important to work together for the common good.
- You’ve said that you have a “literary godmother” in Newbery medalist Erin Entrada Kelly. How did that relationship come about?
I’d been writing for thirteen years and was in the process of switching agents when Erin put out a call for manuscripts to critique with the writing class she was teaching; I jumped on the chance to get feedback from an author of her caliber. She not only loved my manuscript but passed it on to her agent, who offered representation the very next day. It’s safe to say that Erin single-handedly changed the course of my career!
- Can you talk a little bit about Magic in the Middle and what you hope young readers will gain from watching these book talks?
Magic in the Middle is a natural extension of my passion for middle grade fantasy; it’s a free series of monthly recorded book talks that teachers, librarians and caregivers can share with their middle grade readers to introduce new books and get kids excited about reading. (As an added bonus, I often include short video messages from the authors themselves!) To learn more, visit my website at www.jessicavitalis.com.
COMMENTS ARE WELCOME BELOW AND BE SURE TO VISIT ALL THE OTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE BLOGGERS POSTING MIDDLE GRADE CONTENT THIS WEEK.
Very interesting book concept and a fantastic interview. Thanks Greg and Jessica. I’m going to see if my 5th-grade granddaughter would be interested in this book. She has 2 bunnies and this would get her thinking.
Thank you for sharing with your granddaughter; I hope she loves it!
Sounds like an interesting read, I’ve been curious about The Rabbit’s Gift since I first saw the cover. Thank you for the review today, off to see if it’s at the library.
What an interesting concept.
Very unusual premise! Sounds like the author does a good job but I have lots of questions, such as how do the rabbits feed the babies, what happens when the adult humans don’t want the babies, why is it considered botany rather than biology, who grows the rabbit babies…. Guess I will have to read it myself to find out! 🙂 Great interview too! Thanks for sharing!
All the answers are in the book; I promise! 🙂
I’ll definitely have to check it out! 🙂
This sounds like a unique story. I love the purple carrots too. I’m excited to read Jessica’s new book.
Thank you, Natalie!
This looks fun! I actually grow purple carrots, though none of the rabbits have bothered them. And I love footnotes in novels. Can’t wait to read this one.
I absolutely love this cover and can’t wait to read! Thanks for the interview, Greg and Jessica!
Thank you Faith!
I’m always on the lookout for MG books that deal with socio-economic issues but this is the first time I’ve run across one involving rabbits. Thanks for the great review…and interview, Greg!
My work almost always includes socio-economic issues; thanks for your interest!
I am not a fantasy reader, but this one could change that. It sounds great. Fun and interesting interview. Thanks for the post.
Oh, I do hope this story brings you over to the dark side!!! Happy reading!
What a wonderful cover — eye-catching. And such a unique story. Didn’t quite understand the how the rabbits feed the babies — but it is fantasy. Will have to get a copy to read. Enjoyed the interesting interview.
Thanks Patricia! (The rabbits don’t have to feed the babies, but that makes more sense when you read the story.) 🙂
Greg, thank you for featuring THE RABBIT’S GIFT! I’m glad to see the interview was of interest to your readers. Cheers!
Jessica, you are so kind to take the time to respond to everyone who commented. So far there have been 250 visitors to the review page for your book. Best of luck with all of your future writing endeavors.