I was first drawn to the book Little Rabbit Goes to School by the beautifully detailed illustrations. Author and illustrator Harry Horse creates cheerful, brightly hued forest scenes that seem to invite the reader right into the book. From the cozy little rabbit school room to the lush, green forest path, every scene is carefully crafted. But after reading the book, I ended up loving the story even more than the illustrations. The adventures of little rabbit and his toy horse, Charlie Horse, perfectly capture the mischievousness of childhood in a way that is fun for both children and adults.
I bought Little Rabbit Goes to School long before my kids ever went to school, in fact I think it was one of the first books I ever bought for my daughter as a baby. However, I came to love the book even more as my children grew older and needed a little reassurance about the big new world of school. When Little Rabbit wakes up on his first day of school, he decided he needs to reassuring presence of his favorite toy, Charlie Horse, as he faces this new experience. Despite his mother’s best efforts, Little Rabbit starts of to school pulling Charlie Horse with him and Charlie Horse ends up being a rather troublesome pupil. Not only does the toy horse gallop across the children during story time, but he also jumps into the cake batter the children are mixing up. By the end of the day, even Little Rabbit has to admit that school is not the right place for toy horses as he says to his mother, “Tomorrow Charlie Horse can stay home with you, Mama. He’s too naughty for school.” I love how this book transfers the naughty behavior from Little Rabbit himself to the toy that he is controlling because it creates a fun, silly way to talk about behavior and expectations at school. Charlie Horse’s bad behavior can create a conversation about what happens at school and what is expected of kids in a classroom. As Charlie Horse and Little Rabbit go through the school day they learn about sitting still, listening to the teacher, following directions, and most importantly, making friends.
One of my favorite parts of this book is when Charlie Horse jumps into the cake batter that the class is mixing. Not only is it a funny scene (the look on the teacher’s face on the next page is priceless), but I like the thought of kids cooking together in school. Although the cake batter in the book looks kind of purplish (perhaps it has beets in it?), I decided to make some little spice cakes sweetened with applesauce and brown sugar. The use of oats and whole-wheat flour give these cakes some extra fiber, while the addition of applesauce allowed me to cut back the amount of added sugar in the batter. These are dense, filling little cakes that are great for breakfast, to stick in lunches, or as an after school snack.
Spiced Brown Sugar Oat Cakes
Makes 12 regular muffins or 24 mini muffins
1 cup of quick-cooking oats, or old-fashioned oats that have been processed for a few seconds in the food processor
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 400º. Grease or line 12 large muffin cups or 24 mini muffin cups. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (oats through spices). In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the wet ingredients until blended.
- Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry with a wooden spoon until just combined. Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full of batter and bake in the preheated oven for 18 or 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans.