Is it just me or is Easter really confusing? I mean I get the whole religious background- the crucifixion and resurrection, and I get that eggs are a symbol of fertility (and bunnies too?) but what I don’t really have a good handle on is what story I’m supposed to tell my children about Easter morning. Santa’s story is pretty straight forward, we all know his process thanks to stories like “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and all that. He stays up at the North Pole all year with his elves and his lovely wife and on that one night he goes to every single house via the chimney and places special presents under the tree then zooms back out. The tooth fairy, too, she swoops in at night and replaces teeth with a shiny new coin. But the Easter bunny not so much.
So we spend an afternoon hard boiling and dying eggs and put them in the fridge because they’re eggs. And on Easter, this enormous bunny (he’s big, right? Or is he a normal sized rabbit?) comes into our house, goes into our fridge, gathers the eggs we’ve colored (he doesn’t even bring his own but he does remember to put the egg carton in the recycling), and hides them throughout the yard alongside an assortment of chocolate eggs? And leaves a basket- the kids’ own baskets– full of bits of chocolate and funny little stuffed pastel things on our…what… coffee table? And have we ritually left that basket out the night before like stockings offered up to this rabbit? And then after all this he goes to the next house? And often times public places like the playground or shopping mall or restaurants where lots of kids will happen to be having a brunch?
I just feel like I’m muddling up the story somehow. And most likely it’s going to be the downfall for all things traditional and mythical- it will obviously be the first legend my kids will figure out and will probably lead to the tooth fairy and Santa Clause and our friendly household tomten all being exposed for being totally fabricated by their duplicitous parents.
Either way, I still embrace the holidays and try to decorate (see above) and I of course collect books for each one. And I was at Marshall’s a few weeks ago and saw that today’s book, The Easter Egg by Jan Brett, was for sale for $6.99. $6.99! Jan Brett! Gorgeous illustrations! I was easily sold.
And then I read it to the kids. Ugh. That first read through, I rolled my eyes on each page and got more and more confused by the storyline. I mean its main character is a Peter-Rabbit-looking bunny named Hoppi for lord’s sake. And Hoppi proclaims precious things like “Hippety Hop!” and finally meets the famed Easter Bunny, who rolls up in a giant wagon pulled by…chickens. Wait, is that a part of the Easter story I wasn’t aware of? Jan Brett, how could you steer us so far astray? As I finished reading aloud and stood up ready to chuck the book, my daughter said “I…love…that…book…SO…MUCH!” and my son said “Man oh man, that’s the best book, it’s my new favorite book! Mom, you HAVE to write about it!” And they were both lit up like an Easter tree, smiles for miles.
Uh. Did I miss something? I looked back, read through it again. Nope, that rabbit still had a stupid name and randomly visited other rabbits in the woods with other stupid names looking for inspiration for the. perfect. Easter egg. And then I glanced a little higher up on the page than the text. And slowly paged back through the book. Of course. Jan Brett. It’s not the words that are brilliant. It’s the illustrations. I could have been reading The New Yorker as they were gazing at these illustrations and they’d have loved it. So the next night they inevitably asked for The Easter Egg again and as I read it the second time (and then the third, fourth, etc. time) I paid better attention to the story, stopped to look at and point out the gorgeous details in each picture, tried not to resent the name Hoppi for a rabbit, and slowly, slowly came around.
For the record, the story is that that friendly bunny is hoping to create the winning egg in the year’s Easter contest, officiated by the Easter Bunny of course, and will be rewarded with the opportunity to help hide the eggs on Easter morning. So the first half of the book, Hoppi visits his neighbors, each of whom has a different skill and is doing something creative with his or her respective eggs- planting flowers in the egg shells, carving wooden eggs, making chocolate eggs, painting gorgeous story eggs, or building mechanical eggs, what have you. But Hoppi knows that he’s gotta do him, that his egg can’t be based on someone else’s- it just has to be one he’s proud of himself. And then he (and the story) gets sidetracked because a Mama Robin drops a beautiful blue egg out of her nest but has to stay up in the tree to protect her other eggs. So Hoppi forgets all about the contest and devotes himself to sitting Horton-style on the egg on the forest floor, keeping it warm and out of the rain and away from predators. Then the Easter bunny comes through and chooses Hoppi’s hatched robin egg shells as the most special and wonderful egg. The end.
Lessons learned this week: 1) Give books a chance, even if you want to hurl it through a window after the first reading. 2) If the kids love it, read it again regardless. 3) Never underestimate the power of great illustrations. 4) Incorporate this Easter sleigh thing into the story somehow or the kids are going to figure out that you’re a big fat liar.
Happy Easter everyone!