Lou Fancher sensitively adapts Margery Williams's The Velveteen Rabbit, illus. by Steve Johnson and Fancher, while maintaining the magic of the original. The inviting oil paintings ingeniously portray the boy's toy rabbit with button eyes, shaped like those of the real rabbits living in the nearby woods; as the stuffed rabbit is transformed by love, the artists seem to inject animation into its eyes, depicting its metamorphosis into a living, breathing being.
The story has been abridged, too much so, to fit this die cut board version. It isn't the same story and lacks the strong emotional pull of the original. Undoubtedly, it will raise a few questions and some concerns such as why did the boy's toys have to be thrown away? However, it is still one that kids who have a beloved stuffed animal can relate to. The soft pastel illustrations suit the short text.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
K-Gr 3—"Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby...." Spirin's winsome portrait of the begrimed rabbit beautifully conveys the poignancy in this enduring tale of a much-loved toy. The fulsome story is handsomely assembled in a large square book with text pages framed in simple folk-art elements and occasional small rabbits. Often the text pages face a full-page watercolor view of the Boy, his Nana, the nursery, or the rabbits—the one that is velveteen and those that are real. There are also several sets of facing text pages, this being more than a picture book in the traditional definition. One double-page painting displays the splendid array of nursery toys among which the small stuffed rabbit finds himself at the outset, and toward the end there's a sweeping image of the fairy as she carries him off to the woods for his final transformation. Though the fanciful story may seem wordy by today's standards, it continues to resonate in recounting that ever-occurring incidence of a child's beloved toy that is finally abandoned. Spirin's handsome rendering, with a look that is at once old-fashioned and timeless, offers reading to be savored by viewers and listeners of many ages. A tribute to Margery Williams and how she came to write the story appears at the end.—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
In his note to the reader, Fancher (The Range Eternal, p. 1222, etc.) writes, "I’ve shortened the text to allow more room for the artwork," as an explanation for this abbreviated version of the beloved classic. Shortened indeed: Williams’s poetic passage introducing the Skin Horse has been reduced to: "The Skin Horse was old and wise, and he knew all about being Real." The rest is pared down to match, leaving a tale that does stillfaintlyecho the original’s lyricism, but is less likely to lose the attention of, as Fancher puts it, "a wiggly two-year-old" being forced to listen to it. The art is, as promised, all full-paged and space-filling: quiet compositions in which the Velveteen Rabbit, the Boy, and other figures are large, soft-surfaced forms, viewed close-up, and from a child’s-eye level to enhance the feeling of intimacy. The tale’s more philosophical aspects will still elude most of the nursery school set, but sharing this summary may make some listeners more receptive to the Real story, when they’re old enough to appreciate it. On the other hand, perhaps they’ll think they’ve read it already. Why not just wait? (Picture book. 3-5)
“Hague's paintings of the Boy who loves his velveteen rabbit are gentle, romantic, and faithful.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“In an assessment of artistic merit combined with . . . child appeal, Michael Hague's book comes up the winner.”
There is nothing groundbreaking in this lovely gift edition of a childhood classic, and that is just fine. Margery Williams’ fairy tale of a stuffed bunny made “Real” by the love of a child has retained its audience throughout the decades because it is such a beautiful and touching part of childhood; a book that is shared from generation to generation. Interestingly, in the ninety-two year old text, there remains one essential truism: mechanical toys may come and go, but the toys that are truly loved by most children are the “stuffies” that provide youngsters with security and warmth. This new edition of the book is crafted beautifully, with gilt touches on the cover and illuminations around the page numbers. The cloth cover will not take well to many library circulations. Also, the book plate on the title page may encourage youngsters to practice their printing skills instead of writing the name of a fortunate recipient of the book, as intended. The original illustrations by William Nicholson have been digitally remastered so that the nursery animals and wild rabbits are shown as they were originally drawn. This is not to disparage the Gennardy Spirin illustrations or the Michael Hague version of the book, but it is lovely to see the soft-focus, primary colored double paged spreads from the original. The end papers are festooned with yellow, blue, and white bunnies of both the live and stuffed varieties. The language of the text is as beautiful and meaningful as always with no alterations. It is worth noting that the concept of burning a child’s toys after an illness may be disturbing to little ones. Read aloud from this classic, then continue on to DiCamillo’s
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane for tales of brave nursery rabbits that embark on unexpected adventures. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross; Ages 5 to 10.
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
With so many versions of this classic story available, parents seeking to purchase just the right one have a difficult time. For those who find the original art by William Nicholson dated, this latest edition may be the perfect fit. The unabridged text relates the story of the ?fat and bunchy" stuffed rabbit with the soft brown and white coat that is a Christmas gift for a small boy and follows him on his journey to be loved and to be real. The outstanding feature here is the illustrations. Spirin's rich palette evokes a era long ago and he is as much at home depicting toys with hard edges and surfaces as he is with the soft round cherubic face of the boy or the plush texture of the rabbit. Alternating pages of full text are handsomely bordered and the crisp white pages add to the elegant design. The story may, by today's standards, seem a bit sentimental but it is nonetheless a perennial favorite. In lieu of the original, this is the one to own. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey