Monday, July 31, 2006

The Miraculous Journey

Ha! I bet you think I'm going to tell you all about my miraculous journeys, don't you?

You're sitting there thinking...

...ooh, yippee, I get to read all about the miraculous journey of how Ver made it out of the grocery store without having to buy Skittles for her offspring


...ooh, big whoop-dee-doo, now we get to hear all about Ver's miraculous car ride where for once in her life Red, Red Wine didn't play on whatever radio station she happened to be listening to


...ooh, what now? The miraculous story of how Ver accidently poked her eyeball while plucking her eyebrows!

Well, let me put you out of your misery, kind and gentle folk, for I am not referring to any of my own miraculous (*cough* mundane *cough*) journeys, but those of the china rabbit, Edward Tulane. Witness:

This is one of our summer read-alouds, and by far the favorite. You can read a few chapters a day and be done in a week or so. We finished it this afternoon, and by the time I read the last word I was weeping like someone had set fire to favorite shoes in the whole world (bonus points if you comment and link to the correct flickr picture).

Yes, it's sentimental. Yes, you will feel as if your emotions have been toyed with, that someone has punched you in the gut, that you can no longer live in a world full of such common and unending cruelty. But in the end you'll read it to the kids in your life because, really, you have to love a children's book that not only uses phrases like "full of ennui," but in which a china rabbit named Edward Tulane says to another doll, "Don't talk to me about love. I have known love."

Here's Chapter One for you:

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china. He had china arms and china legs, china paws and a china head, a china torso and a china nose. His arms and legs were jointed and joined by wire so that his china elbows and china knees could be bent, giving him much freedom of movement.

His ears were made of real rabbit fur, and beneath the fur, there were strong, bendable wires, which allowed the ears to be arranged into poses that reflected the rabbit’s mood — jaunty, tired, full of ennui. His tail, too, was made of real rabbit fur and was fluffy and soft and well shaped.

The rabbit’s name was Edward Tulane, and he was tall. He measured almost three feet from the tip of his ears to the tip of his feet; his eyes were painted a penetrating and intelligent blue.

In all, Edward Tulane felt himself to be an exceptional specimen. Only his whiskers gave him pause. They were long and elegant (as they should be), but they were of uncertain origin. Edward felt quite strongly that they were not the whiskers of a rabbit. Whom the whiskers had belonged to initially — what unsavory animal — was a question that Edward could not bear to consider for too long. And so he did not. He preferred, as a rule, not to think unpleasant thoughts.

Edward’s mistress was a ten-year-old, dark-haired girl named Abilene Tulane, who thought almost as highly of Edward as Edward thought of himself. Each morning after she dressed herself for school, Abilene dressed Edward.

The china rabbit was in possession of an extraordinary wardrobe composed of handmade silk suits, custom shoes fashioned from the finest leather and designed specifically for his rabbit feet, and a wide array of hats equipped with holes so that they could easily fit over Edward’s large and expressive ears. Each pair of well-cut pants had a small pocket for Edward’s gold pocket watch. Abilene wound this watch for him each morning.

“Now, Edward,” she said to him after she was done winding the watch, “when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the three, I will come home to you.”

She placed Edward on a chair in the dining room and positioned the chair so that Edward was looking out the window and could see the path that led up to the Tulane front door. Abilene balanced the watch on his left leg. She kissed the tips of his ears, and then she left and Edward spent the day staring out at Egypt Street, listening to the tick of his watch and waiting.

Of all the seasons of the year, the rabbit most preferred winter, for the sun set early then and the dining-room windows became dark and Edward could see his own reflection in the glass. And what a reflection it was! What an elegant figure he cut! Edward never ceased to be amazed at his own fineness.

In the evening, Edward sat at the dining-room table with the other members of the Tulane family: Abilene; her mother and father; and Abilene’s grandmother, who was called Pellegrina. True, Edward’s ears barely cleared the tabletop, and true also, he spent the duration of the meal staring straight ahead at nothing but the bright and blinding white of the tablecloth. But he was there, a rabbit at the table.

Abilene’s parents found it charming that Abilene considered Edward real, and that she sometimes requested that a phrase or story be repeated because Edward had not heard it.

“Papa,” Abilene would say, “I’m afraid that Edward didn’t catch that last bit.”

Abilene’s father would then turn in the direction of Edward’s ears and speak slowly, repeating what he had just said for the benefit of the china rabbit. Edward pretended, out of courtesy to Abilene, to listen. But, in truth, he was not very interested in what people had to say. And also, he did not care for Abilene’s parents and their condescending manner toward him. All adults, in fact, condescended to him.

Only Abilene’s grandmother spoke to him as Abilene did, as one equal to another. Pellegrina was very old. She had a large, sharp nose and bright, black eyes that shone like dark stars. It was Pellegrina who was responsible for Edward’s existence. It was she who had commissioned his making, she who had ordered his silk suits and his pocket watch, his jaunty hats and his bendable ears, his fine leather shoes and his jointed arms and legs, all from a master craftsman in her native France. It was Pellegrina who had given him as a gift to Abilene on her seventh birthday.

And it was Pellegrina who came each night to tuck Abilene into her bed and Edward into his.

“Will you tell us a story, Pellegrina?” Abilene asked her grandmother each night.

“Not tonight, lady,” said Pellegrina.

“When?” asked Abilene. “What night?”

“Soon,” said Pellegrina. “Soon there will be a story.”

And then she turned off the light, and Edward and Abilene lay in the dark of the bedroom.

“I love you, Edward,” Abilene said each night after Pellegrina had left. She said those words and then she waited, almost as if she expected Edward to say something in return.

Edward said nothing. He said nothing because, of course, he could not speak. He lay in his small bed next to Abilene’s large one. He stared up at the ceiling and listened to the sound of her breath entering and leaving her body, knowing that soon she would be asleep. Because Edward’s eyes were painted on and he could not close them, he was always awake.

Sometimes, if Abilene put him into his bed on his side instead of on his back, he could see through the cracks in the curtains and out into the dark night. On clear nights, the stars shone, and their pinprick light comforted Edward in a way that he could not quite understand. Often, he stared at the stars all night until the dark finally gave way to dawn.


Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

Oh what a cool book! I had seen it in the local indie store, but haven't picked it up yet. I love the rich prose that harkens back to Victorian children's books.

I have a discounted book coming my way from said indie store to celebrate my birthday, so perhaps I'll pick it up.

Anything that lights up Ms. Ver's shoes ( has got to be one hot commodity.

A. D. said...

is it strange that i'm tempted to buy a children's book for myself?

ver said...

Hiya Bec! I was in a bookstore this morning, and I couldn't resist picking up the same author's Tale of Despereaux. And...those are the shoes!

a.d., (oooh, look at your new avatar!) it's not strange at all! I think good kid's lit is a completely viable choice for an adult reader. Weirdo.

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

OOoooo...Tales of Despereaux looks wonderful. I do believe I've found a new favorite children's author.

Can't wait to pick up the books!

PS. I've resent my email to you. Mebbe AOL is blocking me? *pout*

Anonymous said...

I've ordered this for Anika. (I can't help it if it doesn't make it off my desk - the dog ate it).

What about Sofie and Sylvie? Any suggestions? All are coming up next weekend and I'm making gift baskets for their hotel rooms. Need some fun ideas!!