The Velveteen Rabbit


This post is a part of my “Board Book Beauty – Savoring the small as I read to my toddler” series. To see all of the posts in the series, go here.

My favorite book as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit. My copy, illustrated by Michael Green, has traveled through life with me: to college in Texas, to my one-bedroom apartment in Iowa, to my home here in northern California. Its corners are a bit dog-eared, its binding a bit loose, but somehow, miraculously, it has survived the years (including some in its early days when young hands held it for hours on end.)

I used to have a cassette tape that went along with it, a woman’s warm voice narrating the tale. I suspect my parents may have bought the recording so that I could enjoy the story on my own, freeing up untold hours for them to do other things. I listened to it endlessly; it’s still that narrator’s voice I hear when I read the story today.

I pulled my copy down from the shelf a few days ago and called Katie to my side, telling her I had a new book to show her, one that was my favorite when I was a little girl. She climbed up into my lap and nestled in next to her baby sister, excitement in her eyes; around here, new books are always worth celebrating.

As I began to read, her excitement waned; the unabridged story had too many words and too few pictures to hold her attention, and she began turning the pages well before I’d reached their end. So I improvised, sharing the main points of the story, drawing her attention to the illustrations. We marveled together at the beautiful fairy, at the toy rabbit made real by a child’s love, but the story didn’t seem to grab her the way that so many others have.

I closed the book thinking it was a failed experiment, that I’d need to put it back up on the shelf for another year or two, but she surprised me. Instead of jumping down to find something new, she shook her head, rejecting my offer to read one of her old standbys.

“No, Mama,” she said. “Read it again.”

I did, of course.

She returned to The Velveteen Rabbit after dinner, carrying it into the kitchen so that she could “read” it to our dog. It was one of the two books she chose to read before bed. Later, when Grandma came to visit, this was the book Katie asked her to read.

I’m not sure what draws her to it; it doesn’t have the rhyme or rhythm that so many of her favorite books do, and the story itself is beyond her. Nothing in it makes her laugh. She often seems to be bored, her attention elsewhere, as we flip through it.

Perhaps it is simply the illustrations, beautiful and captivating. I’ve certainly spent a great deal of time looking at those particular drawings. Perhaps it’s the bunny she likes, or the fact that she, too, has a favorite stuffed animal – a sheep named BaaBaa – who goes on many adventures with her. Perhaps it’s the fairy, she with the flowers in her hair, she with the flowing white dress.

Perhaps it is any or all of those things, but my sentimental side likes to think that it is my excitement for this story that draws her interest, that knowing it is a favorite of mine makes it precious to her. Perhaps, like the rabbit whose tale it tells, it is my love – for her and for the book – that makes it real for her.

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