Friday, February 22, 2013

The Velveteen Rabbit - Perfect Picture Book Friday


I was astonished when I looked on the list on Susanna Hill's blog and The Velveteen Rabbit wasn't already listed as a perfect picture book. This book is a true classic.

As a mother, I've bought picture books for my kids. As a writer, I've bought picture books, new and old, to study. The Velveteen Rabbit is neither of these. I own The Velveteen Rabbit  because it speaks to the child in me, as an adult. It is my book because I love it.

I first read The Velveteen Rabbit when I was a child. I don't remember exactly when I read it the first time, but I know I was younger than fourth grade. How do I know? Because when I was in the fourth grade I was part of a program where fourth graders read books to the kindergarten classes. And one week, I picked The Velveteen Rabbit. I was already in love with the story, and wanted to share it with my younger friends. 

It's a perfect picture book. There's no reason not to share the book, right? Wrong!
As perfect a book as it is, it is NOT a great read aloud. It is a snuggle up close and breath in the magic story. Best read leisurely, with ample time to absorb the weight of the story and its emotions, The Velveteen Rabbit is a picture book that will be appreciated more as the reader grows. While the language is perfect for ages 4-8, the text is long, and may be appreciated more by the older more proficient readers at the top end of the target group. A box of tissues are always in order when I re-read this gem. 

Title: The Velveteen Rabbit

Author: Margery Williams

Illustrator: William Nicholson

Publisher: HarperCollins (reissue) 1999
The book was originally published in 1922. This shows you what staying power a truly timeless story has! There are many other editions.You can even read it HERE as part of the Gutenberg Project.

Audience: publisher says it is for 4-8 years of age (but I believe the older a child is, the more they will enjoy the book)

Theme: The transformative power of love

Opening:  “There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid.”

            Synopsis: A stuffed rabbit toy is loved by a young boy. His fur is hugged off and he 
            becomes shabby, but when the boy's nanny tries to put the boy to bed without the rabbit
           he puts up a fuss saying: "Give me my Bunny!. He isn't a toy. He's REAL!" 
           When the boy gets scarlet fever, the doctor says the toy must go--luckily the 
           rabbit escapes being burned and is tosses in the garden shed instead where a fairy 
           visits and turns the stuffed rabbit into a living, breathing, animal. The final two lines still 
           take my breath away: 
          "Why, he looks just like my old Bunny that was lost when I had scarlet fever!"

           But he never knew that it really was his own Bunny, come back to look at the child who 
           had first helped him to be Real.


Activities/Resources:This book is so old and well-loved, you can find lots of things to do. I found pages of plays, (another play)  and teacher's guides. The book is an excellent jumping off point for discussions about the true value of things. Is something new and shiny always better than something old? For a science lesson, children can talk about what it means to be alive. If you're creative, one of the cutest activities I found involved making rabbit cutouts for a math game. The game didn't catch my imagination but the rabbit playing pieces are adorable!

This review is part of Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books.

I hope you've all read this story--and now it's on the Perfect Picture Book list. A big thank-you to everyone who visited Susanna's blog on Wednesday to give me feedback on my own picture book pitch!

22 comments:

  1. I agree, Wendy. This one never gets old, and should be a part of everyone's library...children AND adults!

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    1. It breaks all the rules, but then it was written before the rules were "the rules."

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  2. Oh my, YES. The Velveteen Rabbit HAS to be part of this list. Over 90 years old and still so timeless and powerful!

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    1. It passes the re-reading test for me.

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  3. This definitely belongs on the list, because it is a classic. We all should probably think about our favorites and add them. They are timeless.

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    1. Carter Higgins jogged my memory with her post about this last week. Sometimes the old ones on the bookshelf need love too.

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  4. What a classic, Wendy! Thanks so much for adding it to the list!

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  5. Believe it or not, I have not read The Velveteen Rabbit. Thanks for the review, I'll have to look it up the next time I'm in the library.

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    1. Then I'm especially glad I chose this old classic. Remember the tissues when you read, Janet!

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  6. I so love the exchange between the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse. "What is Real? Does it hurt?" Oh my, I need to read this again. Thank you!

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  7. Funny, I know we tried, but I cannot remember finishing the story with my kids. I loved the concept, but somehow don't remember liking the telling. We have two versions, so I'll have to look at it again.

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    1. It really isn't for the littlest ones. The sentimentality doesn't register so one level of the story is missing for them.

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  8. Do you know the audio version in which Meryl Streep reads and George Winston provides the background piano music? Priceless! LOVE this pick, Wendy.

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  9. Great choice, Wendy! I love that book. When I was a teacher, I read to my 3rd and 4th graders every year. So magical.

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    1. Third and fourth grade sounds right. Thanks, Genevieve.

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  10. Oh, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book, Wendy! And I'm so glad you've added it to the list, because it's a story every child should hear - not just once, but many times. It's funny, for some reason I don't think of The Velveteen Rabbit as a picture book and I have no idea why because it does have pictures. Maybe because there's more text? But anyway, it's so wonderful and I'm very grateful to you for seeing the gaping hole in the PPBF list and filling it! :)

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    1. That's why I call it a rule breaker! It has a long text, and POV shifts--but it works!

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  11. This wasn't on the list??? It has to be on the list! Thanks for adding it Wendy!

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  12. I was first introduced to this book when my grade 8 English teacher read it aloud to the class. I bawled like a baby, which was really embarrassing when you're in front of your teen peers, so I agree that it is more of a "snuggle up close and breath in" story. I can't read it to my kids because it still makes me bawl. :}

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