“I think it’s kind of a special story for those who aren’t aware you can have a bunny in the home,” said Loren Spiotta-DiMare, author of the book Hannah’s House Rabbit. But even if you did know that rabbits can be house pets, this 35-page children’s picture book has something to offer. It chronicles the lives of Hannah and her mother as they prepare to welcome a bunny in their home and the challenges they face once it arrives — from cage escapes to chewed cables and more — along with solutions to every challenge.
The book is based on the antics of Domino, a rabbit Spiotta-DiMare and her husband adopted almost 30 years ago soon after they were married. “The mother and child in the book are really my husband and me,” Spiotta-DiMare said. The two chose to have a rabbit because their apartment wouldn’t allow dogs. A cat couldn’t be considered because Spiotta-DiMare had pet birds. She had owned a pet rabbit twice before in her life, so they adopted Domino, a spotted, Mini Lop mix. She said that Domino became very puppylike, following her around, sitting with her while she worked and jumping on furniture.
Spiotta-DiMare has been writing about animals for more than 30 years, and reading about them longer than that. “I’ve enjoyed animals, reading and writing since childhood,” she said. “Some of my favorite authors’ books are still in libraries today — Albert Peyson Terhune, Walter Farley, Margaret Henry.”
Hannah’s House Rabbit is the latest of 11 books written by Spiotta-DiMare, but its path to publication wasn’t quick. She wrote an article about Domino published in the early 1980s and wrote the manuscript for Hannah’s House Rabbit in the 1990s, which was rejected by publishers. She found the manuscript a few years back and thought it was pretty good and decided to self publish it with her company, J. Pace Publications, which is named in honor of her mother and grandfather, Jeanne and Joseph Pace.
Part of the charm of Hannah’s House Rabbit is its look. When working with a traditional publisher, Spiotta-DiMare said that the artist for the book is selected by the publisher. Because Hannah’s House Rabbit is self published, she got to choose the artist. Spiotta-DiMare’s work as a publicist gives her contacts with many artists, so she asked Lisa Fenton to do the art for the book.
“I like her whimsical style and love the colors.” Fenton, the book designer and Spiotta-DiMare sat down and reviewed the manuscript to discuss the direction for the design. Fenton created a dummy or first draft of the illustrations in pencil and then created the final art with watercolors. Spiotta-DiMare thinks Fenton did a wonderful job of capturing the story and really likes the expressions shown by the rabbit.
The cover image is one of Spiotta-DiMare’s favorites, but her absolute favorite image in the book is on page 23, which shows the rabbit stealing birdseed. Spiotta-DiMare’s horse has a cameo in that scene. She didn’t know Fenton planned that and was pleasantly surprised.
Spiotta-DiMare does book signings and presentations. “I go to schools fairly often to talk about my love of animals and writing, and how I combined the two.” Her Power Point presentation shows the book pages as she reads. This is followed by a question and answer session with the children, which she really enjoys.
She said that in one third grade class she presented the book Norman To The Rescue, which is about a stray, blind Labrador Retriever that gets rescued and then saves a girl from drowning. It’s based on a true story. One scene talks about what the dog is thinking as it sees people come and go at the rescue. How it wants to tell people, “Don’t leave me.” After she read the book, a little girl asked Spiotta-DiMare how she knew what the dog was thinking. “I thought that was a very astute question.” She answered it by saying she thought about how spoiled her own dogs were and imagined how they would feel and react if that life was taken away from them. Her knowledge of her own dogs helped her write that scene.
Will she be writing another rabbit book in the future? “I don’t know. That would depend on if I have any more rabbits,” Spiotta-DiMare said. Her preference would be to rescue two males that are spotted and lop-eared. “I have a special fondness for spotted, lop breeds.” She’s been thinking about adopting for a couple years, but she hesitates because she wants to be sure she provides a safe, happy home. Her five dogs have free rein of the house, which is the main concern.
Hannah’s House Rabbit is currently available on her website, and she’s working to get it on Amazon with her other books. She doesn’t have plans right now to expand her books into the e-reader market.
She’s also working on several more books, with the first one, Broke Leg Bear, due out November 2011. It’s nonfiction and was commissioned by the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. The Woodlands Wildlife Refuge is the only facility in New Jersey licensed to take care of black bears. Each year it usually rescues one or two orphaned black bear cubs. The book follows what happened a few years ago when the refuge had to assist 10 baby bears. One of the bears was hit by a car and had a broken leg, Broke Leg Bear. Spiotta-DiMare is excited about it because it’s her first book about wild animals, not pets. She’s interested to see if the audience for this differs much from her pet books.
She’s also working on a compilation book with other authors that will be self published. It tells the stories, mostly true, some fictional, of the relationship between a woman, a man and a horse. It’s titled Men And Horses And The Women Who Love Them. It’s still in the early stages.
Spiotta-DiMare’s biggest hope for Hannah’s House Rabbit is that it gets wide circulation. She considers herself very lucky. “My personal and professional lives are very interconnected,” she said. “I like to say, I walk the talk. I’ve been very fortunate to combine my love for animals and writing in an enduring and very enjoyable career.”
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