Allison's Book Bag

Tough Winter by Robert Lawson

Posted on: October 17, 2010

Ah, sequels. Can they ever live up to the original? Can Tough Winter fill me with the same calm and appreciation for animals that Rabbit Hill did? Should it even have to invoke the same feelings? No, but this didn’t stop me from wanting it to, expecting it to, and being disappointed when it didn’t. Does this mean you should skip reading Tough Winter? No, but you might want to wait to read it until Rabbit Hill has become just a fond memory so that you won’t compare them.

Reunion shows tend to be well-viewed, because fans like seeing all their favorite cast members together for yet another adventure. And Tough Winter is a likeable enough read, because all the familar parade of animals reappear. Even the same old humans show up. As for the adventure, well with winter right around the corner, the new folks decide to find a warmer locale. Silly folk! Why would they leave their home barely after having moved into it? I suppose they craved some of that Bluegrass Kentucky weather that Father always raves about. In their place, the new folk will leave caretakers. Stupid folk! Don’t they know that caretakers can’t be trusted? Worse, city folk make a mess of the countryside.

Yes, despite the faith by some of the animals that the new folks will leave orders for the caretakers about taking care of the hill creatures, the caretakers turn out to be abysmal substitutes. They bring a city dog, guns, and cigarettes. If all these troubles weren’t enough, Uncle Analdus is predicting a bad winter–and he is normally right. Danger blasts through each chapter of Tough Winter, coming in the form of a dog who endangers animal young, a caretaker who shoots at garden marauders, and even a stray cigarette that sweeps over the hill.

Not until the hill succumbs to snow and ice does Lawson really allow us to spend time with the critters that we grew to love in Rabbit Hill, which is my main problem with the book. It’s as if I had set out on a leisurely country drive to visit a friend, only to find myself having to elude fighting neighbors, raging drivers, and gusting winds. This isn’t to say that weren’t memorable moments before winter arrived. For example, there was the rescue of the new folks’ cat by the field mice and the deer. There was also the rescue of Porky Woodchuck from the caretakers’ dog by Phewy Skunk. Unfortunately, they feel overshadowed by all the drama invoked by the evil caretakers.

Once Lawson returns to focusing solely on the animals, I feel drawn again into the charm of Rabbit Hill. I love the surprise that awaited the animals on Christmas Eve–even if no it wasn’t a much-needed return of the new folks. The anticipation and glory of Groundhog Day is a hoot. And the journey of Uncle Analdus is heart-breaking and priceless. Lawson once again makes the animals feel alive to me as if they were living in my own backyard.

When reunion shows end, whatever their merits, fans will typically clamor for yet another. Similarly, as I reached the final chapter of Tough Winter, which is a decent enough book, I regret that Lawson wrote only one follow-up book about Georgie, his family, their friends, and the new folks.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate it?

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