Kevin Henkes has tackled such early childhood preoccupations as a new sibling (Julius, the Baby of the World), a new school (Chrysanthemum) and anxieties large and small (Wemberly Worried). In Little White Rabbit, Henkes focuses on a child's curiosity and imagination.
His pastel palette of green and blue, with touches of pink and the occasional browns for a tree trunk or log (plus the gray of a menacing cat), allows little white rabbit to stand out against his surroundings. As he hops along, he imagines himself a part of everything he sees. In the high grass, he wonders what it would be like to be green. Then in a wordless spread, Henkes gives readers a window into little white rabbit's imagination. He is as green as the grasshopper perched on a bending blade of grass. All of the animals are shown in profile, so preschoolers only see one wide eye of each creature. When little white rabbit imagines himself tall, like the fir trees, Henkes depicts the rabbit's pink nose high in the air like the pink birds in flight just above his head; his feet are firmly planted beneath the fir tree, with a host of rabbits near, contrasting actual size with the hero, giant-size.
When little white rabbit hops over a rock and "wondered what it would be like not to be able to move," we can imagine preschoolers imitating the hero and staying stone-still, as little white rabbit imagines himself doing through sun, rain and darkness. One of the most glorious transitions occurs as the rabbit hero imagines "what it would be like to flutter through the air," as butterflies do. Henkes creates markings on the butterflies' wings that echo the pink inside the rabbit's white ears, so when he imagines himself in flight, his ears act as wings, and he appears to be migrating with them.
A moment of tension (the appearance of a cat) causes the hero to hop home "as fast as he could," where a loving mother awaits him ("[H]e didn't wonder who loved him"). How well Henkes knows that as much as little ones want to test their independence, they also want to know that their family is near. With only one line of text per spread (except for the wordless ones), this is a deceptively simple story that will launch a flight of fancy for youngest book lovers.