Classic Children’s Books: The Velveteen Rabbit


Classic children’s books like The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is no doubt a favorite of many generations.  Melissa Gaynor from Sweet on Books explains why:

What You Need to Know:
• A stuffed animal’s special bond with a young boy leads to a magical outcome.
• This book has been around almost a century and has been adapted for theater and film many times over the years.
• It is also used in classroom lesson plans.
• The story is emotional and sad at times, but keep going because it has a happy ending.
• This classic is a beautiful read-aloud.

Have your kids ever wondered if their toys could talk or if they could possibly be real? If they have, then they’re not alone. The Toy Story movies, based on just that concept, are popular for a reason! It’s hard to believe that it was 1922 when Margery Williams first addressed that same subject, in The Velveteen Rabbit. Although it was written over 80 years ago, most kids will still relate to this story about a stuffed rabbit that wishes desperately to be real. Told from the point of view of the rabbit, readers get a glimpse into a toy’s life; they discover how the toys treat each other, and that some, like the Velveteen Rabbit, are self-conscious while others are arrogant.

One toy, a kind horse, has been around for many years, and shares his knowledge with the rabbit. He explains that it is possible to become “real” if a toy is loved enough. It happens over a long period of time, and only to a special few. When truly loved, the toy may be worn and tattered, but appearances won’t matter. The rabbit would give anything to be “real” but he must be patient. For a while, he is forgotten on a shelf, but one day, he gets lucky and is given the chance to comfort the boy. He becomes his constant companion and his cherished friend, and eventually sees for himself what it feels like to be “real.” Later, when the boy becomes sick and the doctor says that the rabbit must be cast aside, the rabbit is so sad that he cries a real tear. At that moment, he experiences the magic that leads him to know what “real” truly means. As in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, the rabbit must know sadness before he can become real.

When you first read this book, it might seem surprising that this short and simple tale has endured for so long, but there are subtle messages that make it special. The magical relationships and the extraordinary power of love will stay with readers long after they put the book down. Although it is Reader Junior, the vocabulary and sentence structure may be challenging for newly independent readers. There are also some words and concepts that might be unfamiliar, as they are specific to the time period.

For more classic books for kids, and many others suited to their individual reading level, see the Reading Kingdom book series here.

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