By Lisa McGinnes
Not long ago, I made a comment to my significant other about being real – with a capital “R”. He didn’t seem to know what I meant.
“You know, like the Velveteen Rabbit . . .” I prompted. Still nothing.
“Remember how the Velveteen Rabbit was loved until he was real, and that makes you Real?” Nope.
He had never read The Velveteen Rabbit. I was shocked. I mean, yes the book was already several decades old by the time I read it as a child, but I guess I thought the 1922 classic was so classic that everyone had read it. Maybe it’s not for everyone. The language is a bit old fashioned, and it is quite sentimental (both of which are germane to its charm for me.)
The best thing about my S.O. not having read the book was that I got to read it to him; and the only thing I like more than reading is reading out loud. So I had the double pleasure of re-reading a favorite book from my childhood, and reading it to someone who had never heard it before.
From the first paragraph, I was hooked – again. They just don’t write like that anymore!
“There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. “
How can you not love that first sentence?
Maybe the reason this book speaks to me is because, as an often-lonely only child, I spent a lot of time with my stuffed animals as a little girl. I don’t remember having a rabbit, but reading about his pink sateen ears and beautiful, velvety fur still gives me that cozy feeling of being curled up under the covers with a soft, snuggly stuffed animal and a good book.
The quintessential passage is the Skin Horse explaining to the Velveteen Rabbit what “Real” means in their toy world:
“Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
This is a love story in its purest form – the love of a child for his stuffed animal. If you think that sounds silly, don’t bother with it. But if your mind is open to nursery magic and fairies and Real stuffed animals, and you like feeling all the feels, do yourself a favor and read or re-read this short children’s classic.