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Why the rabbit keeps hopping into my life

By VICKY VELOSO-BARRERA, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 11, 2023 5:00 am

It seems my entire life has revolved around rabbits, so the coming Year of the Rabbit is especially meaningful for me.

I’ve owned more than one rabbit ever since I was six years old. I used to sneak one with me to school when I was in grade school at Assumption Convent Herran. So instead of Marivic, my classmates called me Bunnyvic or just Bunny, and my college best friend to this day calls me Bugs!

I was so enamored of these furry creatures that my parents sectioned off a portion of the garden.

We built hutches for the rabbits but they were also allowed to run around. We had a vegetable garden there and even chickens; it was a wonderful playground for a child.

Alongside my love of rabbits grew a love of reading, as I immersed myself in two libraries: the one my father set up in our den, filled with classic literature and children’s books, and the one at school.

The author, Vicky Veloso-Barrera, with pet rabbit and first-edition copies of Books 1 and 2

The Assumption nuns even spoke to my mom because they were a bit concerned that I spent recess time in the library instead of playing with my classmates.

More than 50 years later I still own rabbits (nine as of this writing) and I’ve written a science-fiction adventure series for kids called The Sign of the Rabbit.

It’s been my lifelong dream and enduring passion, so I’m grateful to have the opportunity to make use of my love of writing and rabbits in my favorite literary genre, fiction for children.

The Sign of the Rabbit writing adventure began for me back in 2000. I’d only been married a few years to my husband Roberto, and we had a one-year-old, Joshua. The idea for the books came to me while I was on the way with my elder daughter, Hannah.

We had so many rabbits back then, almost 30, and our indoor garden was their domain. I wondered what they did at night when we were asleep and imagined that they disappeared down a secret tunnel to an underground lab where they devised schemes to combat the evil death rats.

The seven "Sign of the Rabbit" books

And so it goes in Book 1: The Black Cloud, where a rabbit named Tiny comes into the Santos home to discover a world of good rabbits, bad rats, a Power for good and evil spirits, plus all the other quirky characters that make up the series.

Each book comes with its own original theme song and, because I have been running my Tiny Kitchen Cooking School for 25 years now, there are recipes for the favorite dishes of the characters.

The books are geeky and full of science, and I’ve noticed that I actually have more boy than girl fans.

The big break came in 2019 when Big Bad Wolf head Andrew Ng was shown a copy of Books 1 and 2. He bought out the entire first printing to sell at their Big Bad Wolf events in Manila, Pampanga, Cebu, and Davao. That enabled me to print a second edition, as well as print Book 3 of the 7-part series.

Books 4-7 were completed during the pandemic lockdowns and are only available in e-book form.

This coming Year of the Rabbit, I am so excited to be releasing the Filipino and French translations of Book 1.

The translations will be available soon as e-books on Amazon Kindle, Beebly, and the French platform ePagine.

The Filipino translation was done by UP Professor Romulo Baquiran Jr., while the French version was translated by David Crebassa, the French husband of my childhood classmate, Maxie Magsaysay.

Why French? Because they love science fiction and even study the works of authors like Jules Verne in grade school!

Like The Chronicles of Narnia, the books are an allegory of the Christian faith and center around the classic struggle between good and evil. They are suitable for children aged 8 to 80.

I say 80 because I have grandparents who become fans after buying the books for their apos, but end up reading the books first.

Physical copies of the books are available at Tiny Kitchen, at Tradewinds bookstore in Intramuros, and at both Mt. Cloud Bookstore and the BenCab Museum in Baguio.

To date, over 4,000 copies of the rabbit books have been sold, mainly through pre-pandemic school tours and Big Bad Wolf.

With the Lunar New Year just around the corner, I’ve noticed so many businesses—including high-end fashion houses—riding on the Year of the Rabbit for their merchandise. I, too, have merchandise for my books: rabbit plushies knitted by the Ifugao rice terrace farmers to augment their income. 

But for me, it’s all about my lifelong love of rabbits and writing, which I’m all too happy to share with readers everywhere.