I can’t add anything that hasn’t already been said about The Rabbits elsewhere. Except, perhaps, for a closer look at the story structure. John Marsden has done a couple of interesting things with the traditional story structure, especially in the final two steps.
Shaun Tan writes about his work on his own blog. I highly recommend taking a look at Tan’s entry on The Rabbits if you haven’t already.
STORY STRUCTURE OF THE RABBITS
The native creatures are not very numerous. They are vulnerable to invasion.
At first they want to get to know the rabbits. There aren’t many rabbits. But after a while too many rabbits come.
Now the rabbits become the opponents.
Unfortunately for the native creatures, there is no real plan other than to try and protect themselves.
“Sometimes we had fights … We lost the fights.”
The main big struggle page is the double spread in which the children are stolen. The reader has already realised that this tale is an allegory for the white invasion of Australia and the decimation of Aboriginal peoples. The stolen children remains one of the most egregious politically sanctioned crimes in Australia today, so this part is treated very carefully: Each word is separated within the illustration, giving it due weight.
Instead of a typical anagnorisis, we have a few double spreads of reflection:
Where is the rich, dark earth,
Brown and moist?
and so on.
Unusually for a story, this one ends with a question. “Who will save us from the rabbits?” Despite the question, the new situation is clear: The native creatures are in trouble.