posted by Beret
Ages: 7 to 107
This book is miraculous indeed.
It is simply worded, beautifully illustrated, and hits like a sledgehammer.
Don’t be fooled by the flowery font on the cover, the sweet pencil sketches, or the gentle cadence of the first chapter. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is not a Hallmark commercial. It is not for the faint of heart. It is the sort of book which, when read aloud, makes your child look at you sideways and say, “Why does your voice sound tight and strange?”
My eight-year-old introduced me to Edward. Her teacher was reading it aloud at school, and each day she would come home and give me updates. I wasn’t really listening. Full disclosure: sometimes I don’t pay full attention to every single word my kids utter. Maybe this never happens to you–you are probably a much better person. I made note of the title, however, and looked for it half-heartedly at the library. I didn’t try too hard because I didn’t understand the urgency.
Now I do.
When it finally turned up at our doorstep, my child immediately sat down and began reading it to me–because for some reason, it was very, very important to her that I hear this book. I had been tricked by its mild appearance, however, and was therefore expecting an ordinary little bunny book. I allowed my mind to wander a little.
The grandmother, Pellegrina, is telling her granddaughter a shocking story–not the expected grandmother-ish sort–which ends very poorly for the princess protagonist. She is, in fact, sliced open and eaten. As Pellegrina finishes the tale, she leans in toward Edward, and whispers in his fuzzy rabbit ears, “You disappoint me.”
At last, I am listening.
And suddenly, everything goes horribly awry for Edward.
That night, after my girls go to sleep, I pick up the book and take it back to my room for closer scrutiny.
I open to the inscription, and read this quote from Stanley Kunitz:
The heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.
Clearly, this is not your average kids’ book.
The book is 211 pages long, but the type is large, the lines spaced generously, and illustrations abound. A medium-sized person could read this in one sitting on a rainy day. I could have read it out loud in just a few evenings, but I meted it out for as long as possible–both to make it last, and to give myself time to recover in between pummelings. Did I mention this book packs a wallop?
What the book is about:
*Listening (oh, the irony)
I don’t want to reveal too much. Edward’s story should be discovered in the privacy of your own head and heart. I will just repeat what is said on the back cover:
Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, for he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely.
And then, one day, he was lost.
Nota Bene: Edward is not simply lost for a day or two. He is on the bottom of the sea; he is under a mountain of rubbish; he is bitten and hurled and nailed; he is loved and lost and loved and lost. I held my breath the whole way.
Hopefully, I have learned my lesson. At the very least, I will listen more attentively next time my child recommends a book. This is the best book I have read–for any age–in a long, long time.