In my research about children's books for Easter, I came across several mentions of a book called The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, written by DuBose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack. Intrigued by the title, I did a little research and found a book that I wish I had when I was a kid. And since this book dates back to 1939, it's possible that I did have it, but I think I would have remembered this one, so I don't think I did.
As a special sidenote, I just wanted to let you know that the DuBose Heyward who wrote this book was the very same gentleman who wrote Porgy, which he later helped to adapt (with Mr. Gershwin!) to the musical that became known as Porgy and Bess. Not exactly relevant, but cool. What is relevant, however, is that this is a story that Mr. Heyward used to tell to his daughter, Jenifer - it says so right on the cover. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, as told to Jenifer. Awesome.
And!! The Marjorie Flack who illustrated the book is, in fact, the same Marjorie Flack who wrote The Story About Ping and won the Caldecott Honor for her illustrations in Boats on the River in 1947. So this book, my friends, is awesome before we even get started.
But let's get started.
The story starts out by letting us in on a very big secret. You know how there's an Easter Bunny, and he travels around the world giving candy and hiding eggs? Well... that's a lie. There are really FIVE Easter Bunnies, and the name isn't so much a name as a job title - one must earn the respect of Old Grandfather Bunny, who lives at the Palace of Easter Eggs, and prove to be the wisest, kindest, and swiftest bunny possible, for it is he who chooses who gets to be an Easter Bunny.
Now, when she was a little brown bunny, young Cottontail told everyone that she would be an Easter Bunny when she grew up. Everyone scoffed - "You?" they said. "A little bunny from the country? You won't be as fast as the jackrabbits! You'll never make it! You're just a girl!" (I'm paraphrasing, just so you know.)
Well, little Cottontail grows up and gets married and suddenly finds herself with 21 baby bunnies to take care of (surprise!! No, really - there's an illustration of 21 baby bunnies in bassinet at the same time, and the book even tells us that it happened "much to her surprise.") - but while she puts her dreams on hold for a little while, the dreams that really matter in life never fade away entirely, and when she, now going by the name Mother Cottontail, hears that one of the Easter Bunnies is looking to retire, she brings her brood of well-behaved children with her to the Palace of Easter Eggs to see if she has The Right Stuff.
I love the feminist slant of this story, especially as it was very unexpected from a book written in the 1930's (though there is a bit much housework that Mother Cottontail does, her children help - both male and female). And I love the underlying theme here - no matter who you are, what color fur you have, whether you're a rich jackrabbit or a mother with 21 kids... you, too, can achieve your dreams. Just don't give up.
I've decided that I'm not going to tell you the rest of the story, because I want you all to read it for yourselves, and because just getting to the Palace itself is enough reason to want to jump right into coloring some eggs. But before we color, we must cook. And here we go.
Country Bunny Hard-Cooked Eggs
white eggs - as many as desired
Here's a fun new method of cooking your eggs prior to the dying process: in the oven! This results in a "creamier" tasting egg.
1. Make sure that one rack in your oven is in the middle, and another is at the bottom. Heat your oven to 325.
2. Put an empty cookie sheet or sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom oven rack, in case of breakage. Egg is no fun to clean up, particularly in molten form.
3. Lay the eggs directly on the oven rack, and cook for 30 minutes.
4. Carefully remove the eggs from the oven and put into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process.
There are two issues with making your eggs this way, however. For one, the eggs are a bit harder to peel than boiled eggs. For two... well..
Grill Marks! I actually think that's kinda neat, though. So - your call.
Well, you can always go for the old stand-by: boiling.
1. Put the to-be-cooked eggs in a pot, and add enough water to cover them by an inch or two. Put the pot on the heat.
2. Once the water has reached a boil, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and then move them to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
I got both of these cooking methods from Alton Brown's uber-awesome cookbook, I'm Just Here for the Food. He also has a method for steam-cooking eggs - snazzy!
Once your eggs are cooked and cooled... as the Klingons say, "Today is a good day to dye." As you can see, I got a tie-dye kit this year - So Cool.
Oh! And I totally forgot to mention that I now have a fan page on Facebook. Search for "Kat Cooks the Books" and become a fan!