Watership Down

Book review by
Mark Nichol, Common Sense Media
Watership Down Book Poster Image
Thinking person's bunny story will appeal to kids.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 32 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

This rousing story of a band of rabbits who escape persecution to
create a just society is full of clever strategies, a self-contained
rabbit mythology, and much detail about nature.

Positive Role Models & Representations

One otherwise heroic main character is something of a bully; some
supporting characters are timid or cowardly. Female rabbits are
generally submissive and considered merely for their suitability for
bearing young.

Violence

Several fights and one intense siege occur; a major character is shot, a supporting character has been tortured, and others are injured by hostile rabbits. The rabbits are attacked and menaced by other animals and by hostile rabbits.

Sex

Mild references to courtship and bearing young.

Language

Rabbit-language oaths are translated to mild English swearing; another animal also cusses mildly in English.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Richard Adams's larger-than-life story is compelling and full of high adventure, and his characters are vividly drawn and winning. Experienced fantasy fans cheer the heroes on.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 year old Written bygilleymonster February 24, 2011
Adult Written byScott Lockwood October 24, 2012

Great Shared Family Reading!

My wife and I read this aloud to our fourth grade daughter and first grade son. while all the warnings about violence are valid, with discussion and context, th... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byCasper April 9, 2008

I absolutely LOVE this book

I read it at a very young age, it was the longest book I had ever read at the time. I didn't quite comprehend it, but I fell in love with it. Years later,... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bySunRavenBird April 9, 2008

What's the story?

A band of young males, relegated to the fringes of society, set out to find a place where they can live free and proud. Never mind that the characters in this long and complex but thrilling epic are rabbits--Beatrix Potter, this isn't. Charismatic characters, nail-biting action, and an engrossing plot combine to produce a classic.

When Hazel's clairvoyant brother, Fiver, predicts a catastrophe, Hazel gathers other young rabbits willing to flee to establish a new warren of their own. But few of them have been far from home, and their journey is perilous: They're attacked by rats in a barn, must cross a creek, and are lulled into a false sense of security in a warren whose rabbits turn out to be fed--and harvested--by a farmer.

With every incident, however, the value of each individual becomes clear to the others, and they coalesce into a unified band. When they at last reach their objective, a desolate hill called Watership Down, they feel they have found, and earned, a home.

But then their search for mates to help populate their warren leads to an encounter with a repressive rabbit society, and a gripping undercover plot that culminates in a harrowing stand against the ferocious dictator, General Woundwort.

Is it any good?

WATERSHIP DOWN was written for adults, but adolescents often find it more irresistible than their elders do. Although the rabbit characters have a language and a culture, and they converse and interact just as humans do, these are not cap-and-waistcoat picture-book bunnies, but fully realized characters whose conflicts and triumphs keep readers engrossed.

This is primarily an adventure novel, but one for thinking people. Readers are expected to engage their brains, even for the suspenseful action sequences. Social allegory pops up regularly, from the restlessness of the warren's disenfranchised younger bucks to the fatalism and repression in two other rabbit communities, whose members have given up freedom for an illusion of security. Author Richard Adams also conveys a palpable love of nature. He knows the story's countryside setting intimately, and much of his narrative contains descriptions of the landscape and references to specific plant species.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this novel, which was intended for adults, was peopled with the unlikiest of main characters -- rabbits.

  • When humans do pop up in the story, what is their role?

  • In what ways

  • can this seemingly straightforward "bunny story" be seen as an allegory

  • for the perils of human civilization?

Book details

For kids who love animals

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