I wrote my fourth novel as a lark, having been fascinated by all the animal life in our backyard. And our back property line was dominated by huge arbor vitae trees that served as a home for that wild life. It came out as a children's story, specifically for fourth and fifth grade students, illustrated by my daughter Jeri.
Life in the Arbor centers on Rollie Rabbit and his fellow animals that live in the back yard of a house in Sun City West, Arizona. Rollie is a smart, ingenious rabbit who tries to make his and his family’s life better. Their home is a stand of tall arborvitae trees that line the back boundary of the yard.
Rollie decides that there must be a better place somewhere out in the Great Out There, and he and his friends—Fred Lizard, Millie Monarch, and Buzz Hummingbird—embark on a journey to find such a place. They encounter a number of friends and foes along the way—Olliver Owl, Cecil Snake, Fara Cat, Black Jack, and Kitty Rabbit, to name just a few. Their journey takes them out and then back to their home in the Arbor, culminating in a fight for the hand of Kitty Rabbit, and the realization that there really is no better place than their home in the Arbor.
The view from above, let’s say from the side window of a commercial jet flying at 35,000 feet, would show a tiny walled enclosure. A nearly circular enclosed city sitting more or less by itself, although surrounded by increasingly spreading areas of new housing developments and commercial enterprises. It is the West Valley, west of Phoenix, Arizona, and the city holds about 30,000 inhabitants. Human inhabitants, that is. Senior inhabitants, that is. If one counted all the other folks living within its walls, the number would increase to nearly a million. And who is to say which of the inhabitants is more important?
A closer view, let’s say from one of the F-16 jets flying out of the nearby Luke Air Force Base, would show a city with charmingly confusing configurations—circular roads, S-shaped roads, U-shaped roads, cul de sacs—modest condominiums, moderate single dwellings, spacious homes, a dozen or so churches, nine green oases holding nine golf courses for the city’s retired inhabitants, a commercial area in the middle of the circle, and five openings in the wall for entrance and exit from within its boundaries.
This story is about the other group of creatures living in the city. And a diverse group it is. Narrowing it even further, this story is about a small family of creatures living in the back of one of the homes, a home with a towering privacy hedge of arbor vitae on the rear of the property. The Arbor, as they think of it, is their home. And the hero of this story is a young rabbit named Rollie. Rollie is unusually smart, unusually curious, and unusually dissatisfied with his life in the Arbor.