One Runaway Rabbit

Exploring the 2020 CBCA Short List: Early Childhood

Author: David Metzenthen  Illustrator: Mairead Murphy

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Themes: Pets, cities and suburbia, predators and prey, danger, resourcefulness

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Foundation and Year 1; HASS (Inquiry) Year 1; Arts (Drama), Foundation and Year 1.

From the publisher’s synopsis:
One pet rabbit.
One dark night.
One hungry fox.

A wonderfully entertaining picture book about a clever pet rabbit on the run. 

Unit writer: Sophie Honeybourne  

Field and context

Building field knowledge

  • Younger children often experience difficulty with ‘birds eye view’. Use Google Maps to explore your school and surrounds in satellite view, then in map view. Discuss how one relates to the other. Students could then explore their house and surrounds, creating a simple, labelled sketch inspired by the end papers of the book. ACELY1649 ACHASSI020
  • Challenge students to walk, then record a circular route around the school using both written directions and a drawing on a school map. Can another team follow their route and find their clues? Why is it more effective to communicate this information using a visual map than written directions? ACELA1450 ACHASSI024 
  • Engage in a text prediction based on the cover and title. Explore the city and suburban background, the spotlight, the rabbit and the title. What does it mean to be a 'runaway'? Why might a rabbit run away? Why do you think the spotlight is used? ACELY1659
  • Lulu runs away because there is a hole in the fence. How do you care for a pet rabbit? Brainstorm ideas, then use library or online texts to research. Students could then write a joint or independent instructional text, or develop a short film or slide show. ACELY1661 ACELY1657

Exploring the context of the text

  • Students may not understand the features of suburbia as a built environment. Use the front cover and end papers to help students identify geographical features such as: location (just outside of the main city); detached houses; gardens with fences; people living next door to each other; wide streets. Compare and contrast to other environments students are familiar with. ACELY1655 ACHASSK031
  • Compare and contrast to other stories about runaway pets such as Peggy or Gary, or watch the movie The Secret Life of Pets. Explore the main characters' qualities, then identify the complications and resolutions in each. What is similar about many of these stories? What can we conclude might happen in One Runaway Rabbit? ACELT1575 
  • Ask students if they can share with the class a story about when their pet escaped or hid somewhere? What happened? How did everyone react? How was the problem solved? ACELT1575

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Responding and exploring

Responding to the text

  • Provide students with time to respond to the text during and after reading. What did you think of Lulu the rabbit? What were your favourite / least favourite parts? What is one thing you would change about the story if you could? ACELT1783 
  • As the written element is so sparse and simple in the story, much of the action and tension is communicated through the illustrations. Stop at various pages and prompt students to view the images and provide extra information to reveal who, what, where, when, how and why. ACELY1660 
  • Focus on the comprehension skill of summarising by first asking pairs to orally re-tell the text to each other. Then, use the structure 'first, then, next, finally' as supporting prompts to create an oral or written summary. A written summary could be created as a joint construction. ACELT1578

Exploring plot character and setting

  • The character of Lulu the rabbit can be explored through drama. At various points in the story, prompt students to think about what Lulu might be thinking and feeling, then create a short dramatic sequence and freeze. The teacher can 'tap in' to ask students to reveal Lulu's thoughts and feelings. ACELY1650 ACADRM027
  • What are some adjectives that can be used to describe Lulu's qualities? You may need to remind students that qualities are different to appearance and give examples. Brainstorm a word bank, then ask students to draw a picture of Lulu and label her qualities using the word bank. ACELT1578
  • Various settings in the story help to move the plot forward (e.g. the fence gap, the bin, the car, the gnomes). Jointly re-read the book, asking students to place a post-it note over an object or a place where something important happens then explain why it is important. ACELT1584

Creating texts

  • Photocopy the birds eye view illustration on pages 15-16 then ask students to choose one additional object or location. What could Lulu do in this place? Students could draw an image then write a sentence to describe what Lulu did. ACELY1651 
  • Ask students to imagine they are the child brushing their teeth on page 7. They look out the window and see the rabbit. What do they do next? Write a diary entry to explain an adventure involving Lulu. ACELA1454 
  • The mouse is featured on each page until he disappears when the fox pounces on page 12. Find the mouse on the pages, then teach the concept of point of view by taking turns to orally retell each page from the mouse's perspective. ACELT1580 
  • Foxes often take the part of 'bad' characters in stories. Discuss this idea further after reading Hattie and the Fox and Fox. Next, use an interactive whiteboard to complete the activity on fractured fairy tales. Challenge students to write a fractured version of One Runaway Rabbit where the fox is the ‘good’ character and Lulu is the 'bad' character. ACELT1586 

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Examining

Examining text structure and organisation

  • After reading the first page, did students expect the next page to count up (for example, two, three)? Can they think of other stories that are structured by counting (such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Numerical Street, or Dr Seuss books such as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish)? Discuss why authors often write counting books for small children. As an additional challenge, jointly re-write the story so the text is structured by a 1 to 10 count. ACELA1447
  • Ask students to recognise which word is repeated throughout the story. This use of the word 'one' creates a very simple, repetitive structure to the story. Why do students think the author used 'two' on the last page? What effect does this have on the story and on the reader? ACELA1448
  • The key to ‘reading’ this story is to put the pictures together with the words. Read the story aloud without showing students the pictures. Discuss whether the words alone are enough to understand the basics of the story. What details do the images add? Why are pictures so important in picture books? ACELA1786 

Examining grammar

  • Verbs are conspicuously missing from the text, meaning that each ‘sentence’ isn’t really a sentence! Point this out to students, then ask them to re-write various pages to make correct sentences, for example, ‘One dark night, a hungry fox saw the rabbit’. ACELA1451
  • The text is comprised of a series of descriptive noun groups. Each group consists of a 'numerator' adjective ("one"), then an adjective to describe what the noun is like, for example, 'dark'. For example, the noun group 'a hungry fox' includes a determinator 'a', a descriptive adjective ' hungry', followed by the noun. Identify and record the nouns and adjectives. Can students suggest different adjectives. How would this change the story? ACELA1452 
  • Write two lists of the nouns then the descriptive adjectives from each page. Cut up and put into two labelled bowls. Pull out different pairs of nouns and adjectives then re-sequence into a new story. ACELA1452

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • The illustrations are reminiscent of Film Noir, which uses darkness, spotlights and contrast to build tension. Explore this idea by darkening the classroom and using a spotlight to draw attention to different items, or students in role. Discuss why the illustrator might have chosen to draw in this way. ACELA1453 ACELT1580
  • The illustrations are a great example of close, medium and long shots. Firstly explain distance shots then support students to find an example of a close up, medium shot and long shot. The Lights, Camera, Action interactive, although too challenging for students to complete independently, could be used to illustrate this concept via a teacher-led interactive whiteboard. Support students to connect how they feel at different parts in the story to the closeness of the shot. ACELA1453
  • Point out that the illustrator chose to change the perspective to birds eye view on pages 15-16. What kind of different information does this give you compared to the eye-level viewpoint? ACELA1786 

Additional and related resources and links to other texts: Other stories about runaway pets include Peggy by Anna Walker, Gary by Leila Rudge, The Secret Life of Pets movie, Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox, Fox by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks. Counting books include The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Numerical Street by Hillary Bell and Antonia Pesenti and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr Seuss. Find Background information on caring for Rabbits from the RSPCA Australia. Find Literature texts from the University of the Sunshine Coast to support Early Years Mathematical counting.

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