Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Copy)

Quite baffled, I finished the book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. I was looking for a fun read-aloud, full of adventure, for third through fifth graders. What I found was a story brimming with Christian symbols of Easter. Not at all what I would say a “pleasure to read aloud” unless you like the tissue inducing sniffle sound.

Our hero, Edward Tulane, is a rabbit commissioned by a grandmother for wealthy young Abilene. His china body is delicately white and hollow with beautiful fur ears and tail. His intelligent eyes shine sea-blue but his calm exterior mask a flawed personality. Edward is unable to love, instead preferring to fuss and preen with his own finery.

What makes Edward uncaring? Mistress Abilene extends quality time to him every morning. Paying extra attention to straightening his hat before leaving the house to attend school, she places Edward in the head-of-the-house chair, where he awaits her happy return. He is never alone, as she sets a pocket watch on his lap to help pass the hours. Abilene loves Edward.

Sound like a sweet unassuming story, right? I mean a child could read the book and cry a little when Sarah Ruth dies and move on. The pre-teen may never see the Christian parallels because they remain understated. Therefore, I do see the need to read it aloud between adult and child, but not to a classroom.

Author Kate DiCamillo never admits to the real nature of the book in interviews. She does state that children can handle death and it should not be a forbidden subject. She even tells reporters she wrote Edward’s story before her Newbery Medal winner, The Tale of Despereaux, but waited to publish it. She was afraid fans would not take to Edward’s plight otherwise.

With success comes confidence and DiCamillo instructed her publishers to release the book for spring, a season coinciding with Easter celebrations. If you do chose to read it with children, please scan it first alone. This will help you explain Edward’s sad body on the cross. The illustration by Bagram Ibatoulline is quite haunting.

Edward’s miraculous journey starts when he falls overboard an ocean liner in the Atlantic. It is here, where the china rabbit becomes a metaphor for man lost at sea. I do not feel Edward represents Jesus rather us sinful humans. Then again, you may read the book and decide; hey, he’s just a bunny.

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