The Gingerbread Rabbit by Randall Jarrell, illus. by Garth Williams, originally published in 1964, tells the story of a mother who wishes to surprise her beloved daughter with a rabbit-shaped cookie, but the cookie surprises her instead when he springs to life.
"Once upon a time" begins the story of a mother who wants to make a surprise for her daughter to enjoy when she returns from school. This story's illustrations are executed in pen and ink, and reflect the time in which the words were written. Mom stays home (of course) to bake a gingerbread rabbit for Mary because she saw a real rabbit in the yard. There is no Dad. Mom goes to buy vegetables from the vegetable man who brings his horse and wagon to the neighborhood, and the gingerbread rabbit comes to life. The utensils and pots and pans in the kitchen tell him that he will be eaten; that is the fate of everything that enters the kitchen. The rabbit runs away, eventually hiding from "the giant" in the cave of a fox who has convinced the cookie that he is a rabbit. A real rabbit appears and saves the cookie, bringing him to his home, where he lives happily. But Mom is distraught, and finally decides she will make Mary a felt Gingerbread Rabbit. This story is charming, and the dated illustrations do not detract from its appeal. 2003 (orig. 1964), HarperCollins,