Viv Schwarz is well known for her picture books - Welcome to your Awesome Robot, There are Cats in this Book and more. See her website for her full range.
Those of us following her on Twitter will also be aware of her self-published work. In many cases, as with Rabbit Stew, seeing projects take shape via regular online updates.
Rabbit Stew was created in 24 hours (two twelve hour sessions) as part of the November 2013 book festival in Plymouth. Viv's inspiration for the story was taken from a rabbit skin in Plymouth Museum. Go to Viv's blog for more information about this event and to see the original drawings.
Viv says in her blog that Rabbit Stew is not a children's story and that it contains disturbing scenes. However I feel that the story captures a real sense of the way that the mind of a child can sometimes work. There is no sex or bad language in this story and it does not promote violence. Rabbit Stew addresses issues that everyone has to come to terms with at some point in their lives - death, grief, the reasons why people might eat animals, or animals eat other animals and the importance of respect. Reading this story might help some older children work out their own ideas on these issues but for children who aren't ready to process these thoughts it could be upsetting. For me it was charming, at times funny and definitely thought provoking. My daughter isn't ready to read it at the moment but I hope she will one day.
The story centres around a small girl and her efforts to terms with grief and death in her own uncompromisingly logical but recognisably childlike way. I don't think that it is giving too much away to say that a rabbit dies after an accident, that it haunts the girl's family and that the little girl is keen to show it the respect she feels that it deserves. Rabbit Stew also has a wonderful portrayal of loving parents trying to work together to find a way to nurture and encourage their child even when they are feeling distressed themselves - I did feel sorry for the little girl's dad at times!
Rabbit Stew is a beautifully made zine, mine came with the bookmark you can see in the photo and even the addressing on the envelope has charm - it was such a pleasure to receive this package. The story is engaging, it has an honesty and raw energy to it that, yes, is sometimes disturbing but it is disturbing in a good way - it makes you think about things. I am a vegetarian but I think that people should make their own decision about whether they want to eat meat and that, ideally, this should be done in a humane and respectful way. It is rare to see anyone exploring these ideas and I am very glad when they do.
Rabbit Stew is available in Viv's online shop.