Rosalind James’s authorial debut is a series of short tales about a contrary young rabbit named Bertie who goes on adventures and comes to realize how good his life is. Over 14 chapters, Bertie has new experiences that begin with a dream of flying to the moon and include a car ride to the beach, a plane trip to Switzerland and his 3rd birthday party.
James’s simple-sounding prose is appealing, however she leaves out details that would make Bertie’s adventures engaging. For example, she doesn’t clearly explain what sort of rabbit Bertie is. The book’s cover art and some of the chapters suggest he’s a plush toy that has come to life. However, other chapters make it sound as if he’s a pet that talks.
James also doesn’t delineate the characters’ relationships well. Sometimes Bertie is with his human, Rose, who seems to own him. But other times he’s with Mum, who then seems to be in charge. (Mum is referred to as his mother; thus, readers assume she is a rabbit. But she lives with a young lamb named Lambkin, and Yvette, who may or may not be a rabbit.) Only at book’s end do readers learn that Bertie at some point lost his real family and was “caught and placed” with Mum, Yvette and Lambkin.
James, who was born in England, uses quaint terms, such as “kerfuffle” and “boiled eggs and soldiers,” that add charm to the text. However, they’re not explained and, at times, need to be, at least for American readers.
In the end, James may have a clear idea of who Bertie is and what his story is about, but unfortunately she doesn’t convey it well. To win readers, she’ll need to develop her characters more fully, explain how they came to live together and add in the kind of clever details, foibles, misunderstandings and heartwarming exchanges that bring a book like this to life.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.