Rabbiting on Nowingi is Heather Traeger’s nostalgic celebration of her loving family and a unique way of life in the Australian bush. Bold, graphic illustrations by Peg DuVal bring the story to life.
More impressionistic than linear, Rabbiting on Nowingi feels like a warm and happy collection of memories. From the rabbits hiding so as not to become the main ingredient in Grandma’s stew, to a lost baby fox and a butcher bird hungry for Daddy’s biscuit treats, Traeger recreates a world of unique animals, vegetation, food and vistas. Children will be fascinated by the stories of emus, screeching galaha and night owls, wild ginger cats, mobs of roos (short for kangaroo) and buzzing blowflies. The bush weekends Traeger has re-imagined are magical and intense and the reader is awed by the vastness and beauty of the land.
While one feels the love that inspires this picture book, the story isn’t always clear. Traeger has chosen to tell her story in rhyme some of the time and in straight prose other times. The narrative doesn’t feel well served by this approach as the rhyming structure is oftentimes forced and the meter is inconsistent. The off-again, on-again nature of the rhyming is distracting for the reader. Also, adjectives are repeated, such as “screeching” and “sweet.” In the limited text of a picture book every word choice must be unique and useful. Finally, the photos that end the book are interesting but they belong in a different project.
This is a warm and personal celebration of a special time and place. That said, children without a personal connection to the story or the landscape may find it confusing.