Children’s Library: ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’

April 25, 2012, Epoch Times

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In 1922 English-American author Margery Williams published her pinnacle work, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real, a tender tale and classic piece of children’s literature that to this day resonates with readers young and old.

Williams’ original story of a simple toy rabbit that longs to “become real,” paired with the original illustrations of William Nicholson, makes for a nostalgic and rich reading experience that will stay with readers long after the book is closed. In it a simple and lovely toy rabbit enters a young boy’s life as a Christmas present. Though often overlooked in the presence of more sophisticated, “mechanical” toys, the velveteen rabbit eventually becomes the beloved favorite toy of the boy.

The rabbit learns from the toy horse in the nursery that he can “become real” through the great love of a child.

“‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’”

The depiction of the young boy’s love for his toy is heartwarming and any child who has ever loved a toy can relate.

“And when the Boy dropped off to sleep, the Rabbit would snuggle down close under his little warm chin and dream, with the Boy’s hands clasped close round him all night long.”

“And so time went on, and the little Rabbit was very happy—so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier and shabbier, and his tail coming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nose where the Boy had kissed him.”

The plot thickens when challenges face the Velveteen Rabbit and his beloved boy. A twist of fate brings on “anxious times,” when the young child contracts scarlet fever. A positive light is shed in the end, however, as the Rabbit’s quest to become real is truly fulfilled.

Bringing to bear a multi-faceted example of storytelling unseen in modern picture books for children, The Velveteen Rabbit contains themes beyond the simple love of a toy, including the capacity to manage life’s changes and the extent to which one realizes one’s true self.

This classic tale has been adopted into every format imaginable, including most recently an iPad app. There are a number of audio recordings available of the book, including a narration by Meryl Streep. The hardcover version with its original illustrations contains all of the charm and nostalgia inherent in this tale from the early 1920s.

Timeless and heartwarming, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real is an exemplary work of children’s literature and a timely gift for spring when bunnies are hopping about.

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