By Richard Adams
Reading Level: 7th grade
Interest Level: 9th-12th grade
Awards: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee (1975), Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (1973), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (1975), California Young Readers Medal for Young Adult (1977), Carnegie Medal (1972)
Teaser: Fiver has a vision that will change the lives of the warren forever! He and his brother, Hazel, have a long journey ahead full of danger and heartbreak. Will they accomplish their greatest dream?
Summary: Before their journey began, Fiver had a vision. Their home warren and all of their fellow rabbits would be destroyed. Sick with worry, Fiver and his brother, Hazel, attempt to take their warnings to the Threarah. He does not listen. Hazel and Fiver convince eight other rabbits to leave the warren with them and they begin their journey to find a new home. Along the way, they experience several adventures that most rabbits never dream of. They come to a field where a warren already lives. The warren is strong and has a lot of food, but something does not feel right to Fiver and Hazel. They find out the warren is being fed by a farmer. Narrowly escaping with their lives, they make it to Watership Down. It is everything that they hoped for in a new home. Before they can even settle in, they are battling another warren who wants to take it away from them out of revenge.
Information about the Author: According to Wikipedia, “Adams was born on 9 May 1920 in Wash Common near Newbury, Berkshire, England. He attended Horris Hill School from 1926 to 1933, and then Bradfield College from 1933 to 1938. In 1938, he went to Worcester College, Oxford, to read Modern History. In July 1940, shortly after the declaration of war between Britain and Germany, Adams was called up to join the British Army, He was posted to the Royal Army Service Corps and was selected for the Airborne Company, where he worked as a brigade liaison. He served in Palestine, Europe and the Far East but saw no direct action against either the Germans or the Japanese. After being released from the army in 1946, Adams returned to Worcester College to continue his studies for a further two years. He took the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in 1948 and Master of Arts in 1953. After his BA graduation in 1948, Adams joined the British Civil Service and held the rank of Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, later part of the Department of the Environment. It was during this period that he began writing fiction in his spare time.
Critical Evaluation: In Watership Down, Adams spends a great deal of time creating the setting. The vivid imagery and attention to detail bring the English landscape to life. Most of the time I loved this aspect of the story, but there were moments of scene description that ended up slowing down the progression of the plot considerably. There were several characters in this story. At first, I did not like having to keep track of all the different rabbits. I would mix them up or forget who did what action earlier on in the book. I struggled to keep track of who was who. However, I think that the number of characters can also be considered an anthropomorphizing tool. Having a large amount of characters who know and act out this rabbit culture creates a history that humans can relate to. The story is fuller and as a reader I start to identify with the emotions and the relationships that these rabbits are experiencing.
Curriculum Ties: British Literature, Animals
Booktalk Ideas: Compare and contrast the different characters (some have distinct personalities). Create a poster for the book.
Challenge Issues: Supernatural, Violence, Death
Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association
Why Did I Pick This: I picked this book because it is written from a unique perspective. Despite the fact that all of these characters are rabbits, the reader follows a very emotional tale about war. The book has very memorable characters that displays acts of courage and honor.
Adams, R. (2005). Watership Down. New York City, NY: Scribner.