The Velveteen Rabbit

15Mar10
"HERE was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really
splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was
spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears
were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged
in the top of the Boy's stocking, with a sprig of holly between his
paws, the effect was charming."

I love The Velveteen Rabbit. Margery Williams’ text makes my eyes mist up, and William Nicholson’s illustrations are really good. They don’t “make the book” like Clement Hurd’s do with Goodnight Moon, but they really do stick with you. But I do have a problem with The Velveteen Rabbit: I think it’s written for the adult reading it to the child, not for the child. It’s not the only well-loved book I feel that way about–The Giving Tree and I’ll Love You Forever are even more so–but all three are about what it is to love a child unconditionally.

And to get a bitter-sweet reward. The rabbit ends up doing better than the others even though he was going to be burned after the child’s scarlet fever. His tear brings the Nursery Magic Fairy and the rabbit becomes Real, while the tree stump gets sat on by the boy-turned-old-man and the child sings the I’ll love you forever song to his aged and dying mother.

I do think this is a wonderful book, but for what age? What developmental concerns does it address?

I think it’s reassuring for those of us whose seams are coming undone, whose hair has been rubbed off by loving . . .

Maybe kids love it because it’s been read to them by their own parents, who are the Real part of their own loved nursery toys.

Image is William Nicholson’s, taken from Wikipedia.

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