The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (Author) and William Nicholson (Illustrator)
Initially published in 1922, The Velveteen Rabbit was written by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson. Since its initial publication, this children’s book has become an award-winning classic. It has been republished multiple times for each generation of children (and their parents) to enjoy.
Brief Synopsis of the Plot
The plot of The Velveteen Rabbit appears simple enough for a children’s story, but it also offers complexity and depth, with deeper meanings for life lessons. The story is centered around the main, titular character—a velveteen rabbit. He starts his journey as a Christmas present for a young boy.
When the young boy is more interested in his other toys, the rabbit feels sad. Fortunately, he receives guidance from the other toys. One, the Skin Horse, advises the rabbit that a child’s love will make him real. The rabbit wants to become real but is unsure how to make that happen.
When the young boy loses one of his more favored toys, the Velveteen Rabbit gets a chance to become a part of his life. Suddenly, he is favored. The young boy does treat him as being a real rabbit and he starts to regard himself in the same way. Unfortunately, everything starts to shatter when the young boy becomes ill. To disinfect the boy’s room, all his toys must be burnt. The Velveteen Rabbit nearly faces his end before a bit of magic gives him a reprieve and he ultimately gets what he always wanted.
Relevant Themes in the Text
For a children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit has complex themes. These make the book enjoyable for children and adults alike. It also makes the book into an allegory that young children can learn from:
Love Makes Us Real
The wisdom offered by the Skin Horse in the novel is that the love of a child will make any toy real. That advice becomes a key theme of the book—receive love and become your real self. When the Velveteen Rabbit finally receives the love he has been seeking, he feels more real and alive than he had before. This relationship is mutually beneficial as his companionship also offers much to the young boy. In this case, love is connection, acceptance, and comfort.
Dreams Come with Risk
Throughout the book, the Velveteen Rabbit seeks love because he believes it will make him real. When he finally finds that love and subsequent happiness, it is dashed with the realities of life. This illustrates that while dreams may offer very rewarding outcomes, they also come with risks and sometimes unexpected consequences. Yet, if you continue to hold them in your heart (as the Velveteen Rabbit does), then there is still a possibility of achieving exactly what you want.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving
In this book, appearances are often deceiving. Unbeknownst to the young boy, his toys have minds and hopes and dreams and essentially lives of their own. Though they do also rely on him.
Appearances are also deceiving in the sense that the young boy is initially drawn to his modern and fanciful toys but can find true happiness with a simple stuffed rabbit. Sometimes what one seeks is right in front of them, but they cannot quite see it.
Finally, when it comes down to who is real versus not, the surface appearance may not always be an immediate give-away. When the Velveteen Rabbit meets some actual rabbits in the woods, he is brought back to the stark reality that he is not truly a real rabbit. Yet, his introspection and self-awareness might make him more “real” then any of them.
Analysis of Writing Style
The Velveteen Rabbit is an older book and the writing style reflects this. Some modern children’s books dumb things down, but this book does not. The writing lends itself to a soothing bedtime story read by the parent. As children develop their cognitive abilities, they will be able to grasp the language themselves. The older writing style may even help them to develop their more advanced reading skills.
The author uses certain key elements to drive the plot. One is an internal frustration that the rabbit feels about his limitations and inability to make his own future. He must rely on others to help him reach his dreams. Yet, he grows through the story, gaining both self-esteem and increased confidence. All this is done through the style of personification as this stuffed rabbit is written with very human qualities.
Relevant Themes for Today
If you have ever watched Toy Story and cried during the montage where Jessie laments the loss of her child, then The Velveteen Rabbit is a book you will thoroughly enjoy. But why do people like books and movies about the plights of toys? It is certainly because every child and every inner child truly did believe their dolls and stuffed toys were real (at least they were to them).
The themes seen in the book, also continue to be relevant today. Talk to any therapist and they will surely tell you that giving and receiving real love allows people to be their genuine and authentic selves.
Yes, love does make you real, when it is healthy and allows you to be your true self. Yet, love does also bring risks. Sometimes it brings loss, make ups and break ups, and new challenges that can change a person over the course of their life. But that is real too, for most people, just like the Velveteen Rabbit, it is all part of the journey. These are the lessons that you and your children can take from this book.
When you stock your child’s library and make nightly selections for bedtime stories, do not neglect the option of The Velveteen Rabbit. This book is a true beloved classic that any child of any generation can still connect with and enjoy. There is whimsy and magic. And, yes there is loss and sadness too. Children can handle that and even learn a few real-life lessons along the way.
Indeed, this sweet story about a small stuffed rabbit, will actually let any child learn more about life and relationships. This book may also be a particularly good choice for children who are themselves experiencing an illness, or some other life change such as the loss of someone that they love. The book may even leave them with the consoling thoughts that the ones they lose are never truly gone.
This story is available as an ebook from Forgotten Books or in print at Amazon.