Monday, May 14, 2018

EBBA, The First Easter Hare by Leen Lefebre

Somewhat difficult to follow due to a rough translation from the original Dutch into English, EBBA, The First Easter Hare, is the reimagined origin story of the Easter Bunny.

In this country, the tradition of the Easter Bunny (or “Osterhase”) is thought to have come to the U.S. via German immigrants in the 1700s. Their children made nests out of grass for the egg-laying hare where it would leave its colored eggs. Other sources say the association of a rabbit with Easter or Spring, in general, goes further back in time and was the symbol of the goddess “Eostre,” a goddess of fertility. Rabbits, of course, are known as early and prolific breeders.

In this new take, Ebba and her parents live in a dark kingdom ruled by her uncle, the cruel King Stern. It is a lightless place where the kingdom’s subjects are slaves: the males serving in the army protecting the borders and murdering any other creatures found inhabiting the kingdom. Females are expected to spend their lives gathering food for the king and his army.

One day, Ebba’s father, Atta, approaches his brother, the king, and requests to leave the kingdom for a place beyond the borders that is rumored to be sun-filled and free. The king refuses and they argue, but Atta goes anyway leaving baby Ebba and her mother, Hulde, behind with the promise to return one day and take them to their new home in the promised land.

Time passes, and Atta doesn’t return. Hulde and Ebba keep a low profile hoping for the day when they, too, can escape the dark kingdom until one day, while out gathering food, they discover a rabbit warren that has been destroyed by King Stern’s soldiers. Hidden away in a remote section, Ebba finds a clutch of runner’s eggs overlooked by the army. Ebba and Hulde decide that Ebba must take the unhatched eggs to the promised land beyond the borders to the runner mother that had desperately hidden her nest and fled when the army attacked. And so, begins Ebba’s journey to the borderlands and the adventure it becomes.

This is Book Two in a four-book series for middle graders and older that centers around one of each of the four seasons. (Book One was a winter tale.) Imaginative and short enough to hold the attention of children, it would benefit from some fine-tuning of the language to clarify what is going on and being said. Many times, I was halted in my enjoyment of the story because the word usage was just clunky and off-putting or didn’t make sense.

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