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Review of the book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco

A stuffed rabbit (with real yarn whiskers) comes to life in this timeless story about the transformative power of love. Given as a Christmas gift to a child, the Velvet Rabbit lives in the nursery with all the other toys, waiting for the day when the Child (as they call him) will choose him as a playmate. Eventually, the shy Rabbit befriends the ragged Skin Horse, the nursery’s wisest resident, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to become “real” through the love of a human.

This is the December group reading of The Filipinos Group on Goodreads, and after seeing that a PDF is available for free on the web, I immediately downloaded a copy. It is a short read, a quick reader can finish it for 10-15 minutes.

First published in 1922, The Velveteen Rabbit has been republished many times since then and several film adaptations were made. Margery Williams Bianco, the author, lost her father to sudden death when she was 7 years old and faced this tragedy by transforming grief and loss into literature.

The velvet rabbit it’s short but charming, a timeless classic that pinches the hearts of all readers, young and old. It speaks of the transformative power of love and, as in most children’s stories, the desire of each toy to become reality.

Here’s my favorite part of the book, my favorite underlined lines:

“That is real?” the Rabbit asked one day, when they were lying next to each other near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy up the room. “Does it mean having things buzzing inside you and a handle sticking out?”

“Real is not how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s something that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just for play, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“I guess you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he hadn’t said it, because he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled. “The boy’s uncle made me real,” he said. “That was many years ago; but once you are Real, you cannot become unreal again. It lasts forever.

The excerpt above, for me, is the central point of the story. I must confess that I had a hard time understanding the concept of “becoming real”, since the story is told from the point of view of a toy, an inanimate object, which is obviously not me. I wonder how a child who reads the book could understand it more than I, since for me being real is a philosophical concept, beyond the reach of a small child. But who am I to underestimate the wisdom of a child?

Let me equate the concept of “real” with that of “significant.” This is the closest synonym for the word that occurred to me in this story. The toy rabbit felt and became real because it served its purpose. As a toy, it has brought joy and comfort to its owner, which, for me, is its main purpose. If you want to have more life, or in the case of a toy rabbit, to be alive and real, you must learn to live for and with others. Life is not meant to be spent alone. It must be lived not only for oneself, but more particularly for others. To be able to give and share life with others. Because it is by sharing and giving that man feels an incomparable joy. In fact, someone who feels significant, important, needed, feels real because they have found meaning and purpose for life.

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