Tuesday, April 23, 2013

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams

Williams, Margery. The Velveteen Rabbit. Illus. Gennady Spirin. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-7614-5848-7. $17.99.

Margery Williams' classic The Velveteen Rabbit is typeset with lush, ethereal illustrations by Gennady Spirin in this 2011 version. The Velveteen Rabbit, originally published in 1922, tells the story of the plush toy bunny who longs to become Real. New to the nursery, he is shy and sensitive, and he feels inferior to the snobby wind-up toys. The Skin Horse, old and wise and part of the family for two generations, assures the rabbit that it's much easier for beloved stuffed animals to become Real, because they are durable, and becoming Real takes a long time.

The sweet little velveteen rabbit soon becomes the Boy's favorite toy, and over time, the rabbit becomes shabby, worn, well-loved, and, yes, Real. The rabbit's joy is palpable when the Boy exclaims to his mother "He isn't a toy. He's REAL!" But as we learn in life, good things often come to an end. When the Boy is stricken with scarlet fever, the rabbit is discarded with the other germ-laded sheets and toys. Separated from his Boy and crying softly, the rabbit is visited by the Nursery Fairy, who turns him into a real rabbit. But even as a live critter, the rabbit doesn't forget his Boy.

The story's poignant lesson about loss and enduring love is just as powerful as ever in this 2011 edition. Spirin's illustrations evoke the 1922 setting that Williams would have envisioned as she was writing. The little rabbit's face is expressive, and the images of the Boy walking around with Rabbit tucked under his arm or snuggled in bed are wholesome and representative of the affection a child can have for a toy. Additionally, there's an almost air-brushed quality to the illustrations that creates an almost dreamlike atmosphere that perfectly complements this classic, heart-breaking/heart-warming story of magic.

Jill Coste

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