A Hopeful Message for the New Year: “The Rabbit Listened” by Cori Doer - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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A Hopeful Message for the New Year: “The Rabbit Listened” by Cori Doerrfeld

by Maryellen Rooney Moreau January 06, 2021 9 min read

The Rabbit Listened book coverIn celebration of the New Year, we want to focus on a message of “hope,” so we have chosen a selection of children's literature called The Rabbit Listened, by Cori Doerrfeld, for use with the Story Grammar Marker® or Braidy the StoryBraid® in school, for remote learning, or at home!

In this Blog post, we will share an analysis of story elements and narrative structure using Story Grammar Marker® icons, a discussion of the message and metaphoric meaning, as well as activities with FREE downloads (found toward end of post).

This author has created many children’s books. It states in the book that… “She wrote this story after several of her friends went through difficult times. She hopes it’s a reminder that often what a person needs most is someone who will just listen.” These words introduce this beautiful children’s book that contains lessons for all of us about healing heartache through empathy, kindness, and by listening.

Shon's Stories Read-Aloud image
A Read-Aloud
Of “The Rabbit Listened”

The ability to listen is a gift. It is a gift to others and is a gift to ourselves as we realize—with gratitude—the impact of our ability to listen on the lives of those we love. Language, literacy and social-emotional learning are combined in this hopeful message.

As most of you know, there are many quotes about the differences between hearing and listening. One of our goals as a profession is to foster “listening” skills. The Rabbit in this story listened and the impact was action and new hope on the part of a little boy: social emotional growth.

With a focus on social emotional learning, for some students, you may also discuss this story as an analogy for what happened last year when COVID19 entered our lives and a cascade of unthinkable events followed. (The flock of birds in the story could be a metaphor for the coronavirus and the destruction of the elaborate block structure could represent the fall out from COVID19 in our world). Much like the main character, Taylor, no one really knew what to do, what to think, or how to feel. Sometimes, we still don’t. And sometimes, we need someone (a teacher, specialist or trusted adult/friend) to recognize our distress and to listen so that we can talk, rant, plot and plan, laugh, and finally, to have hope.

Interactive Episode imageThe book is written at a Stage 7 of Narrative Development, an Interactive Episode, where the Kick-Off of one Character causes another Character or Characters to make a Plan and carry out Actions. The Characters in this story are: A little boy named Taylor, a flock of birds, and the sequenced appearance of animals from different habitats: a chicken, a bear, an elephant, a hyena, an ostrich, a kangaroo, a snake and a Rabbit. The Setting could be inside or outside. There are no background illustrations focusing on a place.

There are 5 episodes in this book, beginning with an initial episode showing the building of a beautiful structure of wooden blocks.

Initial Episode

  • Character: A little boy named Taylor
  • Setting: Taylor inside/outside during the day
  • Note: The first sentence in the book is “One day Taylor decided to build something.” The word “decided” is a planning word. Under the title on the title page, the illustration of Taylor is seen pushing a box (of blocks) showing that the decision (plan) was made to create something new, special and amazing (a building blocks structure)! We then, have to infer the KICK OFF, FEELINGS and MENTAL STATE.
  • Kick-Off: [Taylor had time to play and things to play with.]
  • Feeling: [happy and creative]
  • MENTAL STATES: [Taylor THINKS about and IMAGINES something he could build.]
  • Plan: To build a block structure.
  • Attempt: Opens the cardboard box
  • Attempt: Takes the wooden blocks out
  • Attempt: Builds a tall, elaborate wooden structure
  • Direct Consequence: The structure is new, special and amazing!
  • Resolution: Taylor is so proud.

This is the end of this initial “Ho-Hum Day.” Building this structure was Taylor’s expectation for his play time and it happened!

Episode #2


Since there are animals visiting, most children think that maybe Taylor was outside in his yard. Taylor was building a new and special structure with blocks of varying shapes as the story begins with the above episode.

This book is wonderful for narrative development and social/emotional growth that grows out of the language of problem solving. We focus on the animals and the solutions they offer. We then focus on a rabbit.

Looking at this text as a tool for social/emotional development as interventionists, we should look at the illustrations as a focus. Much is to be said for the boy and the blocks illustration remaining stable throughout the book as different animals come into the illustration with their solution to Taylor’s problem…each from his/her OWN perspective. Thus the setting here is “more than a time and a place,” as Maryellen always says. This time, the setting IS an illustration of the kick-off and its aftermath. In this sense, it is an integral setting, one that is unique to the moment and the focus of the action. The book is about the problem (kick-off) Taylor faces due to no fault of his own and how he attempts to deal with it.

  • Star icon SAME Character and Setting as above.
  • Kick-Off: As Taylor finishes the new and special structure, a flock of birds suddenly came “out of nowhere” and destroyed the structure!

Since the author wrote the book after several of her friends went through difficult times in their lives, the Kick-Off is part of the integral setting to be discussed. All that the author wrote about the flock of birds descent was, “But then, out of nowhere…things came crashing down.” This is a four-page spread for discussion. What is happening? Nowhere does the author/illustrator mention her illustration of the birds as a force. It is important to verbalize what is happening. Yes, it is about destruction of blocks but the flock represents a devastating force. The destruction caused by the flock, of course, is the visual metaphor for other types of Kick-Offs/Initiating Events that may happen in life. Think about how this relates to the whole of 2020; fires, tornados, personal losses such as accidents, familial loss such as a death or a divorce, school closures, illnesses, wars, and of course, COVID19.

  • Feeling: Taylor is afraid, sad, and discouraged at the same time. He is afraid/terrified when the birds suddenly descend on his project and sad/devastated as he surveys the destruction. He is discouraged as he thinks about how he would ever re-build something as magnificent. Notice the body language as he gradually curls up within himself.
  • Taylor does not have a Plan iconPlan. He is depicted scrunched into a ball holding his legs with his arms. He feels very small. Children could imitate the body language. Notice his eyebrows/facial expression. He has no where to go. He, himself, is not able to do anything about what happened.

Episode #3

  • Character: Taylor and the animals listed above (absent the flock of birds)
  • Setting: as above but the scene is destruction of the block structure and a sad little boy
  • Kick-Off: A sequence of animals see the boy’s sadness and the devastation.
  • Feeling: Each animal feels empathy, or at least sympathy for the boy. (Sympathy and empathy have different meanings but many students need to be taught the difference.)
  • Plan: The animals try to help the boy to feel better about the situation. Each expresses his/her condolences. Thus, each animal has a plan (want) to help Taylor improve his situation and be happy.

The following are the ATTEMPTS to carry out the plan by each of the animals. Each attempt has a reaction on the part of Taylor and are in themselves little Reactive Sequences. (A Reactive Sequence is a response to a Kick-Off and is Stage 3 in the narrative development sequence.) Children may have cards with BUT and SO written on them and hold these cohesive tie words up as they—the children—formulate sentences and talk about each animal’s attempt to solve Taylor’s problem.

  • Chicken wants to talk about it BUT the boy didn’t feel like talking SO the chicken left
  • Bear (huge in size) notes that the boy must feel angry and wants to shout about what happened BUT the boy didn’t feel like shouting SO the bear left (It looks as if the boy was afraid of the bear.)
  • Elephant wanted to fix the situation be remembering where each block went and reassemble BUT the boy did not feel like remembering SO the elephant left. (Elephants like to remember!)
  • Hyena wanted to laugh about it BUT…SO…. (One must teach about the sound that a hyena makes, for this to make sense)
  • Ostrich wants to hide and pretend nothing happened…BUT…SO….(One must teach the habits of an ostrich for this to make sense)
  • Kangaroo and its Joey want to use the mama kangaroo’s pouch to pick up all the pieces….BUT…SO (One must teach about marsupial pouches!)
  • Snake wants to knock down someone else’s structure with its powerful body…BUT…SO
  • Direct Consequence: Taylor refused all the animals’ offers, and they all left.
  • Resolution: The boy is still sad and alone. The animals are distressed. They probably feel that they tried to help but couldn’t. Their plans did not work.

Episode #4

  • Character: Taylor, looking sad and alone. He has hidden his head even more (withdrawing into himself). A rabbit.
  • Setting: The devastation. Characters are in the midst of the devastation: the integral setting.
    An integral setting is where the plot is brought about within the particular setting itself. The characters, such as Taylor, within an integral setting do not control their “world.” There are ever changing forces outside of their control acting upon the setting, such as the flock of birds, the appearance of all the animals, and even the inner turmoil that Taylor experiences.
  • Kick-Off: The kick-off for the rabbit occurred before that of the little boy Taylor. The rabbit noticed the boy’s sadness as did the other animals before him.
  • Feeling: This kick-off gave rise to a feeling of sympathy/empathy on the rabbit’s part.
  • Plan: The rabbit wanted to perhaps help the boy to cope.
  • Note: The word “notice,” a mental state verb, is used in the text in regard to the rabbit’s presence.
  • Attempt: The rabbit moved closer and closer to the side of Taylor. They sat in silence.
  • Direct Consequence: As a result, Taylor noticed the warm, calming and healing presence of another who is sitting with him in silence…just listening.
  • Resolution: Taylor began to unroll his body. We see him hugging the rabbit. He asks the rabbit to stay with him. The rabbit has made him feel calm. This calmness is a kick-off for Taylor who is ready to express himself because he has an empathetic listener.

Episode #5

  • Character: Taylor and the Rabbit
  • Setting: The aftermath of the devastation, when all seems dark.
  • Kick-Off: Taylor notices the warm, quiet presence of the rabbit.
  • Feeling: Taylor is calm.
  • Plan: Taylor is ready to do something about the devastation. He will be helped by willing listener.
  • (Note that the following attempts are everything that the other animals told him to do…he was not ready at the time they came to him with their solutions…they hadn’t listened.)
  • Attempt: The rabbit listened as Taylor TALKED (Taylor told the story)
  • Attempt: The rabbit listened as Taylor SHOUTED (Taylor showed emotion/feeling)
  • Attempt: The rabbit listened as Taylor REMEMBERED and LAUGHED (Taylor is thinking using a mental state verb and a feeling)
  • Attempt: The rabbit listened as Taylor talked and showed him how he planned to hide
  • Attempt: The rabbit listened as Taylor talked and showed him how he planned to throw everything away
  • Attempt: The rabbit listened as Taylor talked and showed him how he planned to ruin things for someone else (Notice the flock of birds in the background.)
  • Direct Consequence: The rabbit listened and never left…finally he listened to Taylor’s plan to build again.
  • Resolution: Taylor is ready: “I can’t wait,” Taylor said. It’s going to be amazing.

Notice the same configuration of blocks is on the floor in the foreground. The vision is in the distance surrounded by points of light reflecting a promising future structure…bigger than before!



The author provides coloring pages of the characters on her website. My granddaughter, Casey (Sheila’s 6-year-old daughter) was happy to color them in. And to spontaneously pose like Taylor on the cover!!

Coloring Pages and Casey's picture

Below are more ways to use these coloring pages.

(presented in order of difficulty)

Shon's Stories Read-Aloud image
Word Strip and Cards

Provide some children with pictures of the animals who appeared (without the rabbit). All other children have a word strip with FIRST, NEXT, AFTER THAT, THEN, NEXT, AFTER THAT, FINALLY, and the word cards AND, BUT and SO ready to hold up.

  • Use the downloaded coloring book pictures from Cori Doerrfeld as part of the retelling. Each of the animals may be sequenced pictorially by having each child hold a picture, then line up in order and name the animal and tell what his/her habitat is or another fact about the animal for description.
  • Put the animal pictures in sequence on a display for the students to see.
  • FIRST, the chicken came to help BUT she left. NEXT, the bear..., etc.
  • Students may voice each animal’s solution. First the chicken came AND wanted the boy to talk about what happened.
  • Students may form a sentence using And, But and So as cohesive ties for sentence development:
    • First the chicken came AND wanted Taylor to talk BUT Taylor didn’t want to talk SO the chicken left.
  • Variations of the previous sentence could be modeled:
    • The chicken, who was the first to arrive, wanted Taylor to talk about the problem. (Add BUT AND SO)


Shon's Stories Read-Aloud image
Retelling Wheel

Download the Retelling Wheel file and print on heavy stock, then assemble a “retelling wheel.” Have the students color it themselves and attach it together with a brass brad. This can be used along with the sentence activity above (but and so). It can also be used by counselors to discuss alternatives to responding to problems, and be sent home to talk about the story and the message with parents/caregivers.

Re-Tell and Talk About the Episodes with MindWing’s Tools

Use SGM® Digital Icons, the SGM® Mini Magnets, The SGM® Teacher Marker and/or Braidy® Doll to retell/talk about the episodes with TAYLOR AND THE RABBIT. See above analysis.

4 Product images

Maryellen Rooney Moreau
Maryellen Rooney Moreau

Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is the founder of MindWing Concepts. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Disorders at University of Massachusetts at Amherst as a Commonwealth Honors Scholar, and a Masters of Education in Communication Disorders at Pennsylvania State University. Her forty-year professional career includes school-based SLP, college professor, diagnostician, and Coordinator of Intervention Curriculum and Professional Development for children with language learning disabilities. She designed the Story Grammar Marker® and has been awarded two United States Patents. She has written more than 15 publications and developed more than 60 hands-on tools based on the SGM® methodology. Maryellen was awarded the 2014 Alice H. Garside Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Dyslexia Association, Massachusetts Branch.

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