So why has a book about a boy and his bunny remained so popular and well-loved for 85 years? Why do I still get the warm fuzzies when I think about this book? I’ve pondered these questions this week as I’ve been writing about the book, and I’ve come to realize that this book is everlasting because it teaches some important lessons. It’s much more than a book about a rabbit and the boy who loved it.
It’s a story about unconditional love and real beauty--beauty that comes from the inside. The rabbit is teased first by the more modern and “high tech” toys in the boy’s room because he has no cranks or springs or other mechanical parts. Then he’s teased by the real rabbits because he doesn’t look like a real rabbit. This makes the rabbit sad and self-conscious. I don’t know how old children are when they start worrying about the way they look and how others perceive them, but I do know it starts very early. I am not looking forward to the day when my daughter comes home feeling bad about herself because she was teased, but I am not too naïve to think that it won’t happen. All children are teased at some point by someone, and unfortunately, some more than others. So, I think all children who read this book can identify with the rabbit and how he feels when he’s teased. However, the book soon teaches you that beauty is really not about how you look…it’s about who you are inside, and when someone loves you for who you really are, the way you look doesn’t matter. The old, shabby skin horse and then the old shabby velveteen rabbit prove this point. The boy’s uncle and the boy respectively loved their toys so much that the toys became real to them, and even when they were old and beat up and not as new and shiny as the other toys, they were still the most-loved toys.
I remember in my Calculus class in college, I was grouped with a girl whose left side of her face was severely scarred by a dog attack when she was 8 years old. The scarring was so severe that I couldn’t help but notice it every time I talked to her. Then as the semester went on and I got to know her as a person, I didn’t notice the scars as much. One day my roommate asked me what the name of the girl with the scarred face was and it took me a minute to figure out who my roommate was talking about. I knew her as “my friend Britney”, not the girl with the scarred face. In The Velveteen Rabbit, the boy doesn’t notice that the rabbit has become old and shabby because he loves him so much, and it teaches us all to remember to look on the inside and see people and ourselves for who we really are.
Another feature that has made this book endure is its magic. The toys come to life when the boy is asleep or away from his room. This theme has been repeated over and over in books like the Raggedy Ann and Andy series and movies like Toy Story. There’s just something about getting inside the heads of toys to see what they do and what they talk about when you’re not around. I remember when I was little, I used to pretend to sleep hoping and praying that I would see my toys “wake up” and play. I was even convinced they could tell the difference in my breathing, so I would breath deeply and heavily and was always bummed when I woke up the next day because I actually had fallen asleep and missed out on the adventures. Look at tales like Pinocchio and Cinderella that have been around forever. Kids love magic especially when there is a happy ending, and in the Velveteen Rabbit, there is a very happy ending. The magic nursery fairy turns him into a real bunny. What more can you ask for?
There are many many other lessons and quality elements in this book that make it so well-loved, but alas, I’m writing a blog, not a novel. I look forward to the day when I can share this story with my little girl and see her enjoy it as much as I did.
Please tell me--why do you love this book?