The breeding habits of hares and the numerical sequencing of a 13th-century mathematician are not the usual substance of children’s books, but British author-illustrator Emily Gravett ties the two together masterfully in The Rabbit Problem.
The tale begins in January with Lonely Rabbit and a hand-lettered invitation to join him in friendship in Fibonacci’s Field. A female rabbit named Chalk takes him up on the offer. It’s not long before the two are the proud parents of Alfalfa and Angora. Rabbits mature quickly, however, and by the end of March, their new offspring are pronounced “All grown up.” Two pairs become three. By the month of May, the field boasts five pairs and counting. Rain, heat, famine and glut—there isn’t anything that the ever-growing rabbit population doesn’t encounter. Each page brings mounting excitement until a climactic end draws the story to a paper-popping surprise.
Cleverly constructed with each two-page spread displayed as a month-by-month calendar, The Rabbit Problem delights with a host of paper enhancements including a pop-up baby announcement, carrot cookbook and a local newspaper. Multimedia illustrations incorporate crayon, pencil, watercolor, folded paper and a knitted bunny hoodie. The book is packed with so many “extras” that readers will happily return again and again to re-examine the minute illustrative detail and notations on each calendar page. Young readers will find the story to be a visual feast, and adults will appreciate the subtle humor often aimed at the travails of child rearing.
Look carefully at the illustrations and you will see that The Rabbit Problem offers a solution to Fibonacci’s age-old puzzle. However, one need not understand the complexity of mathematical musings, or even the details of rabbit reproduction, to realize that one rabbit plus one rabbit equals a whole lot of fun.