Synopses & Reviews
There was this boy, Davie, and he was going to have a rabbit. His grandfather had promised it. A real, live rabbit. A little black rabbit, if possible. In a week, if possible. And this was in the Netherlands.
There was this boy, Davie, and he was going to have a rabbit in a week. And here he was, in his grandfather's barn on the first long afternoon of that long waiting week. He was lying in front of the empty rabbit hutch. He was peering into the hutch. He had a whole long week to wait for his rabbit, but he alreadyhad the hutch. His father had made it for him.
It was dark and quiet in the barn -- so dark that if he peered hard into the empty hutch, Davie could easily imagine a little black rabbit behind the narrow up-and-down slats that ran along the whole front of the hutch. In front of the row of up-and-down slats Davie's father had fixed a little slanting crib. That was to put clover and grass and dandelions and lettuce in. Then the little rabbit would push his wriggly black nose through the narrow spaces between the up-and-down slats and nibble the grass and clover and dandelions and lettuce. The grass, the clover, the dandelions and lettuce were already in the crib -- even though the little rabbit was not coming for a week. Inside the hutch was a thick bed of gleaming yellow straw. And all the hutch lacked was a little black rabbit.
But he would be there in a week!
And what is a week? Poof -- and like that a week is gone by. Poof -- there is a good week, and poof -- there it is gone. But a week doesn't go by, and doesn't go by, when you are waiting for a little black rabbit. Oh, a waiting week islong. It is like eternity.
"And that is long!" the boy saidaloud in the dark barn to the little black rabbit that wasn't there.
Six long waiting days still to wait. And nothing left to do! The hutch was ready, the straw was ready, the food was ready in the crib. "Ah, little black rabbit," the boy said to the little rabbit that wasn't there.
Then he thought of it. He hadn't named the rabbit! You couldn't just go around saying: "Ah, little black rabbit."
It had to be a name that sounded black!
"Satan," he said aloud in the dark, quiet barn. No! What a name for a little rabbit with a wriggly little nose!
"Shoe Polish," he said aloud. Oh, man, no! What a sticky name.
"Night," he said, and listened to it. NO! No good.
Out of nowhere "Lily of the Valley" jumped into his mind. It sang itself inside of him -- it became a song: "Lily of the Valley, fairest of ten thousand."
That was the way it had sung itself into his mind, and that was the way it made itself into a little song inside of him. It was from a hymn. But it was all wrong from the hymn. The hymn went "He's the Lily of the Valley, the bright and morning star. He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul." It didn't go "Lily of the Valley, fairest of ten thousand." But that was the way his inside song was singing inside of him. He thought about it hard. The little black rabbit would be the fairest of ten thousand to his soul. But you couldn't call a little black rabbit "Lily of the Valley." Lilies were white. And you certainly couldn't call him, "Fairest of Ten Thousand.- When he had decided that, the little inside song shut itself off, and he sat still.
All of a sudden he knew. "Shadrach was rabbit's name. It even sounded black! He tried it on his tongue. He listened to it."Shadrach.
That was it! That was the rabbit's name!
"Shadrach," he said aloud. "Fairest of ten thousand," he said aloud. He sat yearning for his little black rabbit.
But Shadrach was a name from the Bible. And now he wasn't sure that it was right to name a rabbit with a name from the Bible. Shadrach was one of the three young men that old Nebuchadnezzar in the old testament had tossed into the fiery furnace -- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Suddenly he thought that Shadrach must be a good black name -- Shadrach must have got pretty black in that fiery furnace. He didn't smile, because it wasn't right to joke about things from the Bible, and he still didn't know whether you should name a rabbit with a name from the Bible. It worried him.
But he hadn't really named his little rabbit after the name in the Bible! Suddenly he thought of it. No! He was really calling the rabbit Shadrach after the to-bed-going game that his father had made up. It was an exciting game. His father would say "Shadrach," and toss him high without letting him go. His father would say "Meshach," and toss him still higher without letting him go. But then his father would say "And-Abed-We-Go," and let him fly into the high closet bed. He'd bounce up on the mattress and fall, bounce again and fall! Oh, it was a fine game, but now they never played it any more. Not after he'd been sick so long. It was too rough.
Now he knew! The name Shadrach had popped into his mind from the "And-Abed-WeGo" game that his father had made up for him and not from the Bible. It had come to him because of the rabbit hutch that his father had made for him. That was why!
Even after Davie had had the little black rabbit, Shadrach, for several weeks, it was still almost unbelievable. Every morning when Davie woke up it was a miracle all over again -- there in his grandfather's barn sat a wriggle black rabbit, and it was his. David had never been happier...until the day Shadrach slipped through the stats of his hutch and disappeared.
About the Author
Meindert DeJong is the award-winning author of many classic books for children, including the Newbery Medal-winning The Wheel On The Schooland the Newbery Honor-winning Along Came A Dog, Shadrach,and The House Of Sixty Fathers, all available in Harper Trophy editions and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Among Mr. Sendak's other popular books is his Caldecott Medal-winning Where The Wild Things Are.