Watership Down

Common Sense Media says

Thinking person's bunny story will appeal to kids.





What parents need to know

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

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.


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.


Mild references to courtship and bearing young.


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

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Richard Adams
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:January 1, 1972
Number of pages:494

This review of Watership Down was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 12 year old Written bygilleymonster February 24, 2011
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written bySunRavenBird April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
Teen, 15 years old Written byCasper April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

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, I read it again, and again, and again...Very recommendable. Everyone who likes literature should read it. The younger children won't understand it, which is what happened to me, and it does have lots of violence in it. This is the book that hooked me on animal fantasy for several years. But no other books I read could match up to this one, unless you're talking about The Plague Dogs. Whole different story. I read a review on Amazon.com which had a mother complaining because it had no female rabbits and the few that were there were refered to as "does"...Ha ha ha...It's not like the rabbits are going to go around saying "Oh, we need ourselves some girl rabbits. Yeah, some girl rabbits. Some girlfriends, you guys." Heehee. No, seriously, this book can bring up a couple of questions with the younger children, but to not like it because the main characters are mostly male...?


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