Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Huge Harold

I hadn't reviewed any Bill Peet books for the blog and the absence was starting to get to me. Bill Peet is best known as a story man for the Disney company but during that time he also managed to write a ton of books for children. He worked on films like 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, Dumbo, and Alice in Wonderland. His children's stories are He has got to be one of my favorite authors and illustrators. I compare him with Gene Zion and Don Freeman, masters of stories with warm wonderful illustrations and likable characters.

Huge Harold is about a rabbit named Harold who grows up way too much. He becomes several times larger than any other rabbit. His parents are forced to send him away with the statement that he won't be safe with them. So Harold sets off but he quickly discovers that he's not safe in the woods after he is chased by foxes in weasels. He tries to stay in a garden but the farmer discovers him and starts chasing him. Harold eventually finds himself in an old abandoned house but even that won't work after he is discovered. He is chased by hunters all through the fall and eventually in the winter, decides to take shelter in a barn. The farmer who finds him does not chase him off. Instead he feeds Harold good food and takes care of him. Harold is suspicious that he is being fattened up for rabbit stew but the farmer has a different plan. He teaches Harold to pull a cart and wins horse races with him. From then on Harold is adored as the rabbit as big as a horse.

The story is wonderfully warm and I loved the character of Harold. He is a sweet rabbit that just can't seem to fit in. He is often sad and constantly tired and hungry but he is just so cute that I could look past even his flashes of pessimism. The text is rhyming with a simple couplet rhyme scheme. "So he spotted a hide-out and with a big hop, He came plopping down in a leafy treetop. This fooled the hunters and also their dogs, Who sniffed round the tree trunk and peeked into logs." The writing is silly in places and the rhyme actually does a lot to keep us from getting depressed. Harold is often despairing and regularly makes remarks about not being able to go on. Originally I was surprised about this but the sadness just makes the big rabbit an underdog and we root for him all the harder.

The illustration are classic Bill Peet. Using colored pencil and tons of shading Peet is able to created characters that spring to live. I love the goofy grin on the face of Harold as he is happily munching away on the lettuce in one farmer's garden (not the cover image though). It certainly makes up for the number of scared or sad poses that Harold has to take. One image, of Harold sitting by a pond, is enough to break your heart. There is so much emotion in every page of this book, most of it on the part of the giant rabbit. We see his excitement, his sadness, his exhaustion, and his pride. This illustrations, like most of Peet's work, is just filled to the brim with heart. This is one of my favorite Bill Peet's and truly one of my favorite books.


  1. I had a copy of this book and read it to my children when they were small. It's a marvelous piece and your blog has inspired me to buy another copy for my grandchildren.Alistair Paterson, Auckland New Zealand

  2. Alistair,

    Thank you so much for the comment. I'm so glad that this inspired you to pick up a copy. I love the book and love Bill Peet's work. I hope your grandchildren enjoy the book. And thanks for reading.