This tale, which seems to be the only well-known work by the Friedrich couple, is one that would rather not be over-analyzed. If taken too seriously, it ends up making Americans seem rather unforgiving to this charitable bunny after he accidentally hibernated past his appointed holiday. But it's almost plausible enough to make me a little uncomfortable, that near-holy quality of holidays that make us all seem quite parochial. There's the time for chocolate eggs, the time for patriotic parades, the time for trick-or-treating (or, as these Halloween-goers exclaim, "A trick or a treat!"), and never the twain shall meet. Those concerns aside, this is a genuinely funny story, one that had me appreciating and sympathizing for the well-meaning Easter Bunny.
As the New York Times praised, "An ingratiating fable, expertly told with a nice sense of detail."
This book came a couple years before "Houses from the Sea" but features a fuller palette as well as fortifying touches of pen & ink. Below are my two favorite spreads.
It all comes together terrifically. The one thing that I found a bit surprising, if not jarring, was that through all of the failed attempts to satisfy these headstrong Americans, the bunny is always smiling, with the exception of the above page and the page that follows it, wherein the bunny lands at Santa's doorstep, likely feeling a bit disoriented. No doubt it was an intentional characterization, one that has me -- in my own value-laden, perhaps American, way -- all the more sympathetic to E. Bunny and his plight.
The above edition was published in 1957. In 1983, Adams reillustrated it for a new edition. Here is that edition's cover, found from a Google image search.
In 2002, seven years after Otto died (survived by Priscilla, though I'm not sure if she's still around now), the story received a new edition, this time illustrated by Donald Saaf. Here is one of his spreads from early in the story.
Little frustrates me more than the idea that with the onslaught of TV cartoons in the 1980s and 1990s, children ceased being capable of appreciating subtle imagery.
Nonetheless, we can be happy that this old book gained a new life for the 2000s, though apparently some of the text was abbreviated. I mustn't forget that picture books are first and foremost an invitation to literacy. But they can also be an opportunity for children to learn to appreciate art. It sometimes seems like illustrators and publishers are asking themselves, "What can I get by with?" rather than "What will blow them away?"