Emma, who has been homeschooled since kindergarten, is looking forward to starting fifth grade at a public school. The day before school starts, her father, a game warden, rescues an injured bunny from a fence. Emma convinces him to take it home for the night. On her first day of school, she's partnered with an animal-obsessed autistic boy named Jack, and the two bond over the rescue bunny.
Because of the Rabbit contains examples of:
- Be Yourself: Emma and Jack give each other rocks with motivational words and phrases painted onto them. Before Emma goes to public school for the first time, Jack hands her a two-sided one but tells her not to look at it until she needs it. She eventually peeks and discovers that one side reads "Be." She spends some time wondering what it says on the other side before finally flipping it over and revealing "Yourself." Despite this, she spends much of the book worrying that nobody will really like her if she reveals her whole self before finally deciding to lay it all on the line at the end.
- Character Tics: Jack flickers his fingers, especially when he's nervous.
- Does Not Like Spam: Emma dislikes pickles so much that when playing Two Truths and a Lie, she uses "I like pickles" as her lie. Unfortunately, one of her truths - "I raised frogs in the bathroom" - grosses out the other girls, so she pretends that's the lie so they won't think she's weird. As a result, she finds herself forced to eat pickles at lunch and pretend she likes them.
- A Dog Named "Dog": A French version. Emma dubs the rabbit Lapi, short for Lapin.
- First Friend: Jack is the first kid Emma befriends at school, and while Jack's classmates are reasonably friendly to him, Emma is the first to want to hang out with him outside of school.
- Heel Realization: Emma realizes that despite her desire for a loyal, accepting best friend, she's been a poor friend to Jack, Owen, and Lapi in different ways, and resolves to do better.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Emma longs for one. It's one of her main goals in going to school.
- Homeschooled Kids: Emma and her brother Owen were homeschooled together until last year, when Owen became curious about public school. Emma was lonely without him, and Owen seemed to be having a great time, so this year she's starting public school too.
- Innocently Insensitive:
- Two girls on the bus tell Emma her hair looks like an orange, and suggest that she dress as orange juice for Halloween, with a straw in her hair. Emma realizes they're trying to be friendly, but she doesn't like people drawing attention to her hair.
- Some of the girls outside of Emma's class who once had Jack in their class tell Emma to not to tell anything she'd prefer to keep private to him, because he can't keep a secret. Jack, of course, didn't mean to hurt them by revealing their secrets, he simply doesn't know any better.
- Sensory Overload: Jack loves reading about animals, but he can find them overwhelming in person.
- Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: Lapi is so stressed out that he doesn't eat for some time after Emma's father takes him in. Emma eventually manages to calm him down by putting him and his food in an upside-down laundry basket so he can have more freedom of movement.
- The Trickster: Emma's Pépère used to tell her stories about Monsieur Lapin, who was always getting into trouble. Sometimes he would trick his way out, and sometimes he would learn a lesson. For example, once he saw Monsieur Renard sitting in the middle of some blueberries he wanted to eat, grooming his tail. Monsieur Lapin said, "You missed a spot," and got Renard so worked up trying to reach the spot that he spun around and around and fell over dizzy. Lapin ran over and ate the berries.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Emma's brother Owen, who is four years older than she is, has already been attending public school for a year. During his first year, he was already in high school, meaning he should be fifteen now, but Emma is only ten.