Did you know that the stories of Brer Rabbit are part of the traditions of African people who were forced into slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries? These people worked on plantations in the southern United States and brought their stories with them. As time went on, they adapted the stories to include the animals they saw on the plantations. That is how Brer Rabbit and his friends Brer Bear, Bear Fox and Brer Wolf came to be.
The action-packed stories of Brer Rabbit and his cheeky antics delight and amuse children to this day. If your child hasn’t yet discovered the lovable trickster then they are in for a treat. The stories are a way to start conversations about the slave trade and they might also spark an interest in animals.
Here we share our recommended versions of the stories and some fun activities to keep children thinking and learning at home over the summer break.
Our favourite Brer Rabbit books
The stories of Brer Rabbit were first collected by Joel Chandler Harris who retold them in the original dialect.
- Brer Rabbit and Friends retold by Karmina Amin is best for children aged 8+ as it retains the original dialect. This version also gives the background to the Brer Rabbit stories.
- Brer Rabbit’s a Rascal by Enid Blyton is perfect for children aged 6+. Stories are not told in the original dialect and are funny, short and engaging. This is the version many of us grew up with!
- Ten Tales of Brer Rabbit by Lynne Garner published by Mad Media in 2018 is not told in the original dialect and is a wonderful, more up-to-date version of Enid Blyton’s work.
Brer Rabbit themed activities
Here are some Brer Rabbit activities for children who love the cunning rabbit and his tricky plans!
Remember to check video links before you share them with your child to make sure they are appropriate (for instance, the YouTube video of bears shows bears eating). We also recommend skipping past the adverts for the same reason.
- Where do rabbits live? Why do they have long ears? Read some lesser-known rabbit facts.
- Go rabbit spotting. The best time of day to see rabbits is early in the morning or in the evening. Before you go find out what a rabbit warren looks like and look at pictures of rabbit droppings on Google Images. We recommend Hinchingbrooke Country Park and Waresley and Gransden Woods for rabbit spotting. You can also see burrowing rabbits at Shepreth Wildlife Park.
- Watch a video of some people discovering a rabbit’s nest in their garden.
- Rabbits love vegetables and herbs. Why not eat like a rabbit by growing your own herbs?
- Although our British red fox isn’t the same as the American fox that is Brer Fox it is more interesting for children to discover wildlife on their doorstep. Discover some red fox facts from the Woodland Trust.
- Go out and search for signs of foxes. Before you go, Google ‘fox scat’ and have a look at the Discover Wildlife website to see what fox holes look like. Fox holes tend to be more evident in woodland and we have seen them near to Waresley and Gransden Woods.
- Watch a video of a red fox.
- Go and see a red fox at Shepreth Wildlife Park.
- Make some fox crafts.
- There are some fascinating facts about bears on the National Geographic website.
- Watch a video of the American black bear in its natural habitat.
- Go and see brown bears at Hamerton Zoo or North American black bears at Woburn Safari Park.
- Gather all your teddies and have a teddy bears’ picnic. Children could make delicious food for the picnic. As American black bears love to eat berries, how about making some Pink Lemonade with Fresh Berry Ice Cubes?
How to make Pink Lemonade with Fresh Berry Ice Cubes
You will need: a handful of fresh berries, a large bottle of fizzy water, 4 lemons, the juice from a packet of beetroot (but not pickled), 6 tablespoons of runny honey.
Take an ice-cube tray and put one or two berries in each compartment. Fill the ice-cube tray with water and freeze.
When the berry ice-cubes are frozen pour the fizzy water into a jug. Squeeze in the juice of 4 lemons, and then stir in the beetroot juice, honey and ice-cubes.
- Did you know wolves like to eat apples? Discover more facts about wolves you might not know.
- Watch a video of wolves in the wild. Go and see a maned wolf at Shepreth Wildlife Park or Hamerton Zoo, or a Canadian timber wolf at Woburn Safari Park.
- Make wolf puppets and crafts.
Learning about the slave trade
Here are some fantastic websites for children learning about the slave trade:
- At least four million people enslaved in the USA were freed at the beginning of the American Civil War. Twenty-six audio recordings of their personal experiences have survived. Listening to their real voices is an incredible and moving experience. We recommend you listen first before sharing with your child.
- For younger children, the Ducksters website gives an overview of the slave trade across the world.
- Older children can see real photographs and diary excerpts on the Bristol and Transatlantic Slavery website.
- Did you know that the British taxpayer was still paying compensation to slave owners until 2015? BBC Culture shares some staggering and lesser-known facts about the slave trade.
One-to-one summer tuition in Cambridgeshire
For children, the summer holidays are a time to relax and to spend quality time with friends and family. However, you might be concerned that the length of the break will lead to what’s sometimes called ‘summer learning loss’. This is when children start the autumn term with lower achievement levels than at the beginning of the holiday.
We offer short, one-to-one tuition in English and maths during the summer holiday to keep children’s learning fresh. If you think your child could benefit, please contact us on 01223 858 421 or email@example.com