The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real.
Margery Williams. Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith.
Kindergarten - grade 4 / Ages 5 - 9.
This is a reissue of the beautiful children's classic by Margery Williams, first published in 1922. This is a distinctly dated, British, upper-class story, but it endures, because it is told from the perspective of the toy rabbit. Children, whose imaginations anthropomorphize their toys, find great joy in stories where the stuffed animals think and display personalities. The modern-day comparison is Corduroy, the teddy bear created by Don Freeman, who lives in a tenement apartment in New York.
Grahame Baker-Smith has illlustrated this story in a style that uses the detail of an adult eye and the simplicity of a child's perspective. The setting is a British manor house in the 1920's, complete with the heavily flowered draperies, nurseries, fireplaces and elaborate lawns. The paintings are realistic, but have a shadowy quality to evoke the past. The people are drawn in an angular way, with little detail in their faces. The rabbit's face is always expressionless, but his blank look somehow manages to convey whatever emotion he is described as feeling. The colours are deep and heavy, as were the furnishings in that period. Light radiates from the rabbit at the important moments, such as when the boy makes him Real, and when the nursery magic Fairy turns him into a Real Rabbit. The illustration of the rabbit at the depths of sorrow, with a single tear falling from his eye as he lays abandoned in a sack in the garden in the dead of night, is particularly effective.
The illustrations are organized on the page in groups of 3, 4 and 6, comic-book-style on large pages of this hardcover edition, so that the story flows quickly in front of the reader.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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