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The Mad Hatter's insanity, in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland " and in Lewis Carroll's society, was due to the toxic mercury used to make the felt for headwear. Wolfgang Mieder and Alan Dundes confirmed this in "The Wisdom of Many" but what has March got to do with the madness of Alice's March Hare?
"Hares in March are very wild," wrote Ebenezer Brewer in his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, because "it is their rutting time." An additional explanation, from Charles Hardwick in "Traditions, Superstitions and Folk-Lore," "will be found to lie, in part at least, in the habits which the animal displays about the time of the vernal equinox … and which have been the cause of the animal being regarded as a disguised witch, actively engaged in 'brewing storms.'"
Hares are longer-eared and leggier than rabbits. But in the mad illogic of Lewis Carroll's Hatter and Hare, this would hardly preclude a lapine (rabbity) reading list for this windy month of March.
Lapine is, in fact the language spoken by the rabbits in Richard Adams' "Watership Down ," the 1972 classic for adults both young and older. "After their warren is destroyed," said Gale Cengage Learning's Books & Authors, "a small band of rabbits begin to search for a safe haven to establish a new warren. Each rabbit has a different skill that he must use: Fiver has ESP, his brother Hazel is the leader and Bigwig is an impetuous fighter. Overshadowing all is the rabbit folk hero, El-ahrairah."
It's an unfortunate child who hasn't met Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and their many animal friends (actually, it is the mice who stand out among Beatrix Potter's creatures). Ruth K. MacDonald, in "Writers for Children" wrote that "even today, few works rival the excellence of her illustration and writing. She set a high standard for later writers and artists. She deserves to take her place among the major creators of children's books."
"Bunnicula ," featuring a vegetarian rabbit vampire, is a favorite of older children (grades 4-7). Ask your nearest children's librarian about the series, which includes "Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow ," with a writing style that School Library Journal's Elaine E. Knight called "a mixture of chills and chuckles, and the black-and-white pencil drawings are appropriately eerie. Underlying all the fun is a quiet celebration of writing and the power of friendship and inspiration."
Marie Mead's "Rabbits; Gentle Hearts, Valiant Spirits: Inspirational Stories of Rescue, Triumph, and Joy " is a collection of 20 stories based on actual events. Many of the accounts are about rabbits from various rescue societies and, as the publisher states, "despite the … traumatic situations, the happy endings of these true accounts will leave readers inspired."
For a far sadder ending, revisit John Steinbeck's novel, "Of Mice and Men ." Lenny, who wants only to raise rabbits and pet their soft fur, is too strong for his own good or for anyone's else's safety.
The Beaufort County Library's collections are as prolific as rabbits themselves.
Check out our Web site,www.beaufortcountylibrary.org, or stop by your nearest branch location to find out about even more titles, whatever your interest this spring.