The Rabbits' Rebellion by Ariel Dorfman and Chris Riddell
|The Rabbits' Rebellion by Ariel Dorfman and Chris Riddell|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Sterling political fable/parody, that has never felt more timely.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 64||Date: November 2019|
|Publisher: Seven Stories Press|
We're in the realm of the rabbits, only the foxes and wolves have taken over. King Wolf, His Wolfiness, has declared the rabbits don't exist, but the pesky birds have spread rumours from awing that the bunnies are in fact still around. Demanding a propaganda spree, King Wolf orders a humble monkey to be his official portrait photographer, but whatever the poor innocent monkey prints out in his darkroom there is a distinct leporine hint. Can King Wolf succeed in proving himself victorious, can the rabbits show their continued existence to all who need to know of it – and what can the poor monkey caught in between do?
First, history – and King Wolf knows it comes first, for he's guilty of trying to change it. At one point it seemed like Ariel Dorfman was going to blow up in the Western world – charity shops that never carried a single play had a copy of "Death and the Maiden", and it became a (slightly mediocre) film. He seemed to be the next big thing in world literature, before doing a Bernhard Schlink and ended up being known for just one title. Heck, people thought he had given his name to the National Theatre's Dorfman venue, but he hadn't. But early on in his career, in the mid-'80s, he produced a children's fable, which (if this volume is correct) he seemingly translated himself in 1990. In 2001 it gained illustrations from Chris Riddell, but this 2019 presentation is the first North American appearance it's been awarded. But like I say, for all its age it's utterly, utterly prescient.
Only the day I was writing this one of the most listened-to radio programmes in Europe was discussing the 'post-truth' world. And in these small pages that world is the kingdom of the rabbits. You can successfully attach any political debate to the story presented here, and it would work. Brexiteers vs Remainers, Thissers vs Thatters, Flat Earth Enthusiasts vs Sane People, it could all apply. This then is one of the most widely-adoptable political parodies, but the fact it can be applied to convey the truth behind so many arguments makes it feel as if it was written yesterday.
It's near perfect, and I only wonder if we might not have heard from the rabbits themselves – the monkey isn't the perfect character either, and not quite able to compete in our attentions with "the future Wolferor". The book then seems to just scoff at the wolves and the flat-earthers et al, without providing a coherent alternative, and while we may often feel a scoff should be enough, it would always be better for the young audience to see the view of the other side, or the scientific truth. But that young audience will be quite happy seeing the rabbits getting into the picture from their alleged extinct state, and either way this will work very well as what it is – namely, a portrayal of successful dissent. And as for these pictures – it's just repeating the obvious to declare Chris Riddell one of the best illustrators to ever be published. That ain't no fake news, and nor is the verdict that this is a wondrous little volume – immediate and clever enough for a young readership, and so telling it can only invoke a grudging nod of truth (and a smile) from adults.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Before the wolves came along, I guess the rabbits were breeding like, well, rabbits. The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett is a brilliant look at what happens when they do. Chris Riddell wrote and illustrated Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright.
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