I was expecting something along the lines of 'Watership Down', but after a few pages, I almost forgot that the characters in the story were rabbits, so convincingly were they described and developed.
The tale opens with some beautiful description, which could be exploited for work on ‘settings’. The repetition of ‘Crunch, crunch, crunch’ links the opening scenes depicting a happy rabbit community, which lull the reader into believing that the story is going to be peaceful and happy. However, into this peace steps the Bard and he is soon gripping the imagination of the rabbits of Thornwood with his tale of hero Podkin One-Ear, the son of a rabbit chief. He and his feisty sister Faz, along with their little brother Pook, have to escape the powerful Gorm, who rise up from below. The Bard’s story charts their thrilling journey and their efforts to conquer the Gorm.
Podkin himself is charmingly developed, starting out as a lazy ‘boy’ who is certainly outdone by his clever and resourceful sister. Indeed, I wanted her to be the main character as she could have been a great symbol of girl power! However, Podkin gradually takes on responsibilities and becomes the son who would have made his father proud. The enemy ‘Gorm’ are scary; there are some fairly graphic scenes and the pace of the action keeps the reader hooked right to the end.
I enjoyed the story within a story and wanted to get to the end of the book to check that Podkin was victorious and able to rescue the ‘goodies’. I would read it to upper KS2 classes, but not younger children because some of the scenes could frighten them. There is plenty of scope for discussion of novel types; journey, good v. evil, quest, goals and also discussion around comparison with well known titles such as The Hobbit and Watership Down.
Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood, illustrated by David Wyatt
Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571328406
You can read another review of Podkin here.