Roy Campbell,
Song of the Jackalope
(Bridgeway Books, 2006)

This is a set of stories (or fables) focusing on a jackalope named Molly. For those who might not know, a jackalope is a mythical creature of the American West's deserts, resembling a large jackrabbit with antelope-like antlers.

In the first story, "Song of the Jackalope," we meet Molly, who lost an antler when very young following an unfortunate encounter with a cactus. Molly is growing into a sensitive, aware, thoughtful and somewhat outcast jackalope, whose physical abilities are hampered by her impaired balance (having only one antler will do that). In this initial story, she meets Grandal, a very old and very wise jackrabbit, who befriends her. We also learn of the power of song in the lives of jackalopes.

In the next story, "Molly & the Ginkgo Tree," Molly makes a rather unusual friend, and issues of friendship and self-esteem versus vanity are neatly addressed.

In "An Unlikely Rescue," Molly learns how to look beyond her immediate situations, see others from their own viewpoint, and the meaning of altruism and charity. In "The Crippled Coyote," we see Molly learn more about not making assumptions about others, and the concept of kharma or "what goes around, comes around." "Many Years Later" is a brief, somewhat wistful, epilogue.

This collection of stories started as e-mailed yarns from the author, Roy Campbell, or "Baba Roy" to his granddaughter. They would make excellent bedtime stories for children 3 to 7, as well as read-along stories for children 5 to 7.

The stories are quaint, humorous and clear, but subtle, in their lessons. They are well-written, and leave you wanting more. I hope that Campbell will consider writing more jackalope stories, possibly featuring a young male jackalope, to connect better with boys learning to read.

I have mixed feelings about Grandal's occasional references to the Arthurian legend. They seem to be non sequitors, and cause minor interruptions to the flow of the reading experience. However, for some children, they might open the door of interest in the Arthur stories, and thus lead to further reading. For older children, David Clement-Davies' Fire Bringer might be a good book to follow Song of the Jackalope.

by Chris McCallister
17 March 2006

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