North America – African American
(Gullah from Sea Islands, S.C.)
Hamilton, Virginia. 2003. Bruh Rabbit and the tar baby girl.
Illustrations by James. E. Ransome. New York: Scholastic.
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of ♥♥♥♥♥). (Cover photograph taken from Amazon.com).
Summary: Bruh Wolf makes a tar baby scarecrow to stop Bruh Rabbit from stealing crops. Bruh Rabbit gets stuck to
the tar but outwits the wolf and ends up safe.
Type: beast tale
Characters: Both characters
are one-dimensional. Bruh Rabbit, a favorite of Southern African-American storytellers during slavery, is lazy, smart, and
tricky. Wolf is industrious, vengeful, and not overly clever. According to Hamilton’s
notes, “The early generations of African American tellers…began to identify the rabbit’s lowly status with
their own” (unpaged). Seemingly, they also identified the larger animal with the plantation owner.
Setting: In her opening sentence,
Hamilton writes that this tale happened “a far time ago” (unpaged). While the setting is a rural farm where it snows, Hamilton
never provides an exact location.
Plot: This is a standard
trickster tale with the smaller, cleverer animal triumphing over the larger, more powerful one. Like many of these tales, the small trickster gets away at the end. Unlike many of these tales, Bruh Rabbit
uses reverse psychology to obtain his freedom. Bruh Rabbit successfully steals
from Bruh Rabbit three times, and Bruh Wolf tries to “fix” the rabbit during a fourth incident
Theme: The theme is that cleverness can triumph over size or power.
- Language: The language is rhythmic and filled with colorful expressions such as “scarey-crow,” “dayclean,”
and “day lean.” In her notes, Hamilton explains that “this
version of the story was collected and recorded in fairly heavy Gullah speech of the Sea Islands of South Carolina”
(unpaged). The tale is written in an oral way – one can easily imagine someone telling it.
Rating Considerations: The poetic words and the striking illustrations complement and enhance each other.
watercolor paintings are memorable. He draws readers into the single and double-page
spreads with a rich palette and multiple perspectives. The illustrations are filled with humor, especially when
Bruh Rabbit starts “studying” the tar baby and gets stuck from head to toe (unpaged).