Alice's Farm, A Rabbit's Tale by Maryrose Wood

Hello, Maryrose Wood! Happy, happy 2020 to you! I loved meeting you in 2010 during your The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place tour. I am honored and so happy you dropped by to chat with me about your forthcoming novel, Alice’s Farm, A Rabbit’s Tale

Maryrose Wood: I remember our first meeting! It was at the wonderful Anderson’s Bookshop outside Chicago, around the time the first book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series was published. On the tenth anniversary of the Incorrigibles’ debut, I’m thrilled to share my next middle-grade book with you. Coming in June: Alice’s Farm, A Rabbit’s Tale

Alice’s Farm is the tale of a young cottontail named Alice who, with the help of her brother Thistle and other, unexpected allies, has to hop over her preconceived notions about how rabbits and farmers are mortal enemies, and do something that no rabbit has done before: become a farmer herself. She’ll have to risk everything to succeed, but Alice knows it will take no less to save the beautiful valley between the hills that she and the other animals call home. 

Along the way, Alice and Thistle encounter a dog named Foxy, a fox named Doggo, a mysterious American bald eagle named John Glenn—and young Carl Harvey, a ten year old city kid who’s been newly transplanted to Prune Street Farm. 

The Harveys’ impulsive decision to quit the Brooklyn hipster life and buy an empty farmhouse in rural upstate New York was well-intended, but they don’t really know what they’re doing. Now Carl has some preconceived notions of his own to deal with, as he struggles to adapt to this very different place and its inhabitants—the two-legged kind, as well as the four-legged. 

Carl’s baby sister Marie is a big help, too. It turns out that being a baby is a real advantage when it comes to conversing with animals!

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Christopher Denise’s cover illustration is sublime. To capture the glory of nature in words is something we writers often try for, but Chris’s artwork simply brings it all to life. I love how much intelligence and courage shines from Alice’s sweet cottontail face. She truly is a remarkable rabbit! And Chris’s loving depiction of the farmland setting shows just how much is at stake for Alice and her friends. 

The extra-fun surprise of this cover art is on the back, though! That’s where we meet Foxy, the very special dog who befriends Alice and Thistle. That Foxy is a shiba inu is no accident. My own dog is a sweet, elderly shiba named Lil. She provided plenty of inspiration as I wrote the book. It makes me happy every time I look at Chris’s depiction of this proud, unpredictable, and irresistibly foxlike breed.

Prune Street Farm is my dream house! My grandparents were Italian immigrants who’d been farmers in the “old country,” and they treated their suburban yard in Long Island like the farmland it once was, before all those identical houses got built. They grew everything, including a fig tree that my grandfather tricked into behaving as if it were in a Mediterranean climate, despite the snowy winters of New York. 

When I was a kid, we lived minutes away from my grandparents’ abundant garden. I grew up eating those home-grown vegetables, and I’ve planted many gardens of my own over the years. A little farm in the Hudson Valley, like Prune Street Farm? That would be heaven! 

Did you know that Alice like all Eastern cottontails, will only weigh about two and a half pounds full grown? And that all rabbits have an instinct to zigzag rather than travel in a straight line? It’s what comes of being a prey animal. Evasive maneuvers are important! 

Alice is such a small creature to hold so much bravery within her, but her brother Thistle is even smaller than she is, and very nearly as brave.

Story is at the very center of what makes us human. 

Stephen Sondheim and George Furth…ha! All right, you got me, Mr. Schu! Stephen Sondheim and the late George Furth were the composer/lyricist and bookwriter, respectively, of the one and only Broadway musical I ever appeared in.

The show is called MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, and it famously flopped in 1981, during its short, failed Broadway run. Yet in the years since, MERRILY has steadily redeemed itself. It’s evolved from notorious Broadway disaster to cult favorite to universally beloved classic. The original Broadway production was the subject of a terrific documentary film in 2016 (“The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened,” now on Netflix), and MERRILY is currently being made into a movie starring Ben Platt. Talk about a story! 

I count Mr. Sondheim in particular as a big personal influence and inspiration, going back to when I was a teenaged superfan. His brilliant work taught me so much about what words could do in the service of story and character. That he later came to be a real-life mentor to me is one of those impossible plot twists that don’t just happen in books, apparently!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about Charlotte’s Web.

Just as The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books were the inevitable result of my long obsession with Jane Eyre (okay, maybe putting children raised by wolves in the care of a teenaged governess in Victorian England was not inevitable, but it sure felt that way to me!), so Alice’s Farm, A Rabbit’s Tale sprouted from my enduring love for Charlotte’s Web, a perfect book if ever there was one. 

The interplay of animal and human perspectives, the tender and often comic depiction of life on a farm, and the unsentimental yet heartfelt (and heartbreaking) grappling with the plain fact of mortality—these themes that make Charlotte’s Web a timeless classic have carved their own deep grooves in me. 

I wanted to write them in my own way, in a tale set on a 21st century farm, with 21st century problems to solve. I wanted to create a cast of unforgettable animal characters who manage to accomplish something so remarkable, even the humans are forced to take notice.

For these reasons, and because that clever little cottontail just wouldn’t stop tugging at my sleeve, Alice’s Farm, A Rabbit’s Tale was a book I just had to write. I hope readers will come to love Alice and her friends as much as I do. I also hope they come away from the book feeling something akin to the way Alice does—that this fertile earth is a precious gift and a shared responsibility, too. It needs all of us to hop over our differences, and work together to take care of the glorious, life-filled planet we call home.

Look for Alice's Farm, A Rabbit's Tale on June 9, 2020. 

Macmillan's Description: 

In Maryrose Wood's stunning middle-grade novel, Alice's Farm, a brave young rabbit must work with her natural predators to save her farmland home and secretly help the farm’s earnest but incompetent new owners.

When a new family moves into Prune Street Farm, Alice and the other cottontails are cautious. The new owners are from the city; the family and their dog are not at all what the rabbits expect, and soon Alice is making new friends and doing things no rabbit has done before. When she overhears a plan by a developer to run the family off and bulldoze the farm, Alice comes up with a plan, helped by the farmer’s son, and other animals, including a majestic bald eagle.

Here is a stunning celebration of life, the bitter and the sweet. Alice is some rabbit—a character readers will love for generations to come. 


Popular Posts