The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward
Illustrated by Marjorie Flack
Along with the Easter egg hunt and the dyeing of the eggs, an annual reading of The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is a special way to mark the holiday. Children take comfort in traditions.
The story concerns a little brown country bunny who has a husband (never mentioned again) and 21 baby bunnies. She teaches her children self-sufficiency: two-by-two, they make the beds and wash the clothes and create pictures to adorn their home. When it comes time for the Grandfather Bunny at the Palace of Easter Eggs to select a new Easter Bunny, he recognizes the country bunny’s kindness, swiftness, and wisdom, all evident in her role as mother, and she is picked over the big white bunnies from fine houses or the long-legged jack rabbits.
DuBose Heyward wrote this book, his only foray into children’s literature, for his 9 year old daughter, Jenifer. He died the following year. He is better-known (though largely unsung) for Porgy and Bess. In 1925, he wrote the novel Porgy, about a crippled African-American beggar (based on a real character who got around in a goat cart) in Charleston’s Catfish Row. Subsequently adapted as a highly successful play, Porgy became the first major Broadway production with an all black cast, this at a time when white actors in black-face were the norm. Several years later, George Gershwin wrote the music for what was to be the first great American folk opera, in collaboration with his brother, Ira, and DuBose Heyward. Heyward was largely responsible for the libretto and lyrics, including the song Summertime.
Heyward embodied an unlikely combination of contradictions. He was descended from a once-prosperous distinguished Southern family, yet he was a social progressive. He was a high school drop-out, yet he was an important figure in the revival of Southern literature in the 1920’s and 1930’s. His white roots were firmly in the segregated south, yet his novels gave voice to a waterfront African-American culture. With this background, it is worth rereading The Country Bunny to see how he quietly makes the case against discrimination.
Marjorie Flack was a writer/illustrator who was responsible for The Story About Ping and the Angus books. For The Country Bunny, she drew hundreds of wholesome-looking rabbits, and managed to make even sweeping the floor and mending the clothes look like fun.