This book retells a true story of two soldiers who were brothers and their horse, Bunny, who fought in the First World War together. Bunny the horse was chosen as one of the 18 horses that were sent to Europe to fight as part of the 9th Battery Canadian Field Artillery. Throughout the story students learn about all of the jobs that Bunny helped with, as well as all of the hardships and challenges Bunny, and the soldiers, had to face on the field.
Why use this book:
- Showcases the significant impact that animals have on the well-being of people through loyalty, trust and helping to keep up morale. The book demonstrates the strong connection and relationships people have with animals, known as the human-animal bond.
- Highlights the different roles animals can play in our lives and that some animals have jobs. This story could serve as an introduction to service animals and emotional support animals.
Ask you students:
- Why did the horses, including Bunny, go to war? What role did they play?
- How was Bunny named? Have you ever named an animal after their appearance?
- Do you believe that Bunny was as “brave as a tiger”? Explain and give examples.
- The horses and soldiers spent a long time on a ship getting to Europe. How do you think the soldiers felt being on a ship for so long? How do you think the horses felt?
- What were some of the jobs that Bunny and the rest of the horses had to do?
- What were some of the dangers Bunny and the rest of the hoses faced?
- How would you feel if you were Bud and/or Bunny on the day the sky was a midnight black at noon?
- On that day, Bud tells Bunny “We’ll both pretend to be brave.” Why do you think he said that? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to “pretend to be brave”? Explain.
- How did Tom react when he heard the news about his brother? How do you think he felt? Explain.
- Why do you think the captain wanted Tom to ride Bunny? Do you think it would have provided comfort to Tom in anyway? Explain.
- Tom tells Bunny “I chose to come here and fight. No one gave you a choice.” Do you agree with this statement?
- Why do you think the soldier didn’t think “a horse named Bunny can be much use” when their cart got stuck? Is if fair to judge others based on their looks or their name?
- Why do you think Bunny was left with a farmer in Belgium, rather than return home? If you were Bunny, would you have preferred to stay in Belgium or return home on the ship?
- The Real Bunny – As a class watch the short video “Toronto’s War Horse” (2:36). In partners or small groups, have students research the real Bunny. Have students compare and contrast the events of the book with the information they find, using a Venn diagram.
- Animals with Jobs – The Canadian Armed Forces has had many military service animals that assisted in the First and Second World Wars. Tales of Animals in War is an resource from Veterans Affairs Canada that features the role different animals have played in war. Some of these animals were working animals, just like Bunny, and some animals were used to help comfort and keep the soldiers company (mascots). Using the Tales of Animals in War as a starting point, have students research animals in the Canadian Armed Forces. Each student can pick one animal to research and present their findings through a slideshow, poster, pamphlet or bookmark.
- Simile Posters – In the story, one of the brothers, Tom, describes Bunny as “brave as a tiger.” As a class, brainstorm and write a list of other similes that would describe other animals that are involved in war, on the board. Then, have students design a poster showing appreciation of their animal, including a simile from the brainstorm or one that they thought of on their own, on the poster. Remind students that there are many animals involved in war, not just horses. Allow students time to look at the Tales of Animal in War website, for examples of other animals involved in war. Hang these up in the classroom or around the school to show appreciation.
Additional Resources Related to Book:
- Veterans Affairs – Information on the real Bunny from the Government of Canada.
- National Geographic Kids – Information and resources on how horses helped during WW1
- National Army Museum – Information on the role horses played in war
- The Canadian War Museums – Information and examples of animal mascots and pets in war.
- The Canadian Encyclopedia – Information on animals that serves in the First World War.
- Animals in War Dedication Project – Information on Military Mascots and Service Animals.
- The Atlantic – Photos of animals in war
*Thank you to Kendal Sasvary for her contribution to this book review.