Little Rabbit & The Meanest Mother


Susan Fry reviews Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth, by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise.

While I may not be the tidiest person in the world, my children far surpass me on the messiness spectrum. I’ve seen playdates end with their entire room blanketed in Legos. Ouch! And I don’t even want to think about the time my son emptied a tube of toothpaste – in the bedroom.

No wonder my kids and I laughed out loud at Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth. The book examines the neatness struggle from both sides, and it arrives at a hilarious solution that satisfies everyone.

Little Rabbit’s playroom is covered with upended furniture, scattered toys, piles of rocks, and bits of paper. But Little Rabbit is interested in only one thing: the circus has arrived, and giraffes and lions parade under his window. His mother will only let him go if his playroom is clean, however, and Little Rabbit’s room just seems “to get messier, not neater.” When Mother Rabbit refuses to let him go, Little Rabbit’s frustration erupts in an all-too-familiar way. “It’s not fair! You’re so mean!” he shouts.

While most children would simply sulk, Little Rabbit takes control. He sneaks out and joins the circus. His claim to fame? “‘I have the Meanest Mother on Earth,’” he informs the ringmaster.

With entrepreneurial zeal, Little Rabbit sells tickets by describing his mother in a way that may feel very real to kids. “She has two heads,” he tells a kangaroo mother and baby. “And she uses them to think up mean ways to punish the small and the innocent.” While the mother kangaroo finds that hard to believe, her child murmurs, “I can believe it.”

But when Little Rabbit tricks his mother into the circus tent, the audience is understandably disappointed. “What’s so terrifying about her?” they demand.

Without missing a beat, Mother Rabbit exclaims, “Wait! I’ll show you all something guaranteed to terrify.” She leads the circus audience back to her house. “Welcome to the Messiest Room on Earth,” she announces. The audience is duly horrified. At the end, Little Rabbit’s room is finally clean – Mother Rabbit lets all the animals take toys as souvenirs.

The cartoons have a retro-Parisian, carnival-esque flair, with curlicues, stripes, and unusual color combinations of orange and blue, pink and brown. The body language between Mother Rabbit and Little Rabbit expresses a loving and happy relationship. When he’s scared, little Rabbit clings to her, and she holds his hand.

The final scene will make both parents and children smile – Mother Rabbit lets Little Rabbit sleep under a homemade circus tent. “I’m not the Meanest Mother on Earth,” she tells him. “I’m the luckiest.”

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.

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