Jan 18, 2008

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit especially made for a little girl named Abeline by her grandmother, on the occasion of her 7th birthday. Abeline loves Edward very much, but Edward is vain, conceited, detached, and not at all concerned with feelings.

His life changes when the Tulanes go on a cruise, and midway through the journey he falls overboard. The fear he feels as he descends to the bottom of the ocean shatters his numbness. After that, Edward comes to be owned by a fisherman, Lawrence, and his wife, Nellie, who call him Susanna; by a homeless wanderer, Bull, and his dog Lucy, who name him Malone; by an old lady who uses him as a scarecrow, and by a young boy called Bryce and his ill little sister, Sarah Ruth, who name him Jangles. Throughout his miraculous journey, Edward Tulane learns to love, to lose, and to love again.

It seems to me that there is a tendency nowadays to think that happiness is to successfully avoid disgrace for your whole life. We look at those who have endured a great loss – widows and widowers, orphans, parents who have lost a child; you name it – with a mix of pity and awe. How did they survive, we wonder? They are braver and stronger than we are. But the truth of the matter is that they are just like any of us. Having the courage to go on after a great loss is certainly admirable, but if you think about it, it is fortunately more common than the opposite. Because that’s what humans do – they pick up the bits and pieces of their broken hearts, and they move on.

I am so glad to have found a book that is not afraid to tell children that at some point in their lives they are bond to experience loss. We all do. A love that does not last; a friendship that is irreparably damaged; the loss of a grandparent, a parent, a friend. These experiences are painful, of course, but trying to sweep them under the rug is not very wise.They are all part of what it is to be human, and happiness does not consist in somehow miraculously avoiding them. An important part of being happy is being able to enjoy every moment with the people who mean something to us, even though not all of them will always be a part of our lives. It is not letting loss harden our hearts, not letting the fear of getting hurt control us. We all get hurt sometimes. It’s part of being alive.

I hope I’m not making this book sound too dark and heavy for children, because it really isn’t. It’s a book about love and loss, but it’s a hopeful and uplifting book. Kate DiCamillo deals with these themes in a way that is just right for children. I really don’t know how she does it. Her stories have a point, but they don’t moralize. Her stories are sweet, but not saccharine. Her stories are tender, but not sentimental. She knows when to let feelings flow, but she also knows when to hold back, and through the combination of the two she reaches the exact right emotional pitch.

I was surprised when Carl and Chris said that this book was even better than The Tale of Despereaux, but now, even though I’m still not sure which one I prefer, I see where they are coming from. This is a great story, and the book itself is a thing of beauty. Bagram Ibatoulline’s illustrations certainly add to the magic:




I wish Kate DiCamillo had been around when I was a child. I would have liked to have been told the things her stories say. Fortunately, for me it is never too late to read stories about china rabbits, princesses and mice.

To read the first chapter, visit the book’s charming website: here.

Other Blog Reviews:
Stuff as Dreams are Made On
Stainless Steel Droppings
Here, There and Everywhere
Becky's Book Reviews
Maw Books
Bending Bookshelf

12 comments:

  1. What a beautiful review! I bought this book after reading The Tale of Despereaux to my students, but I haven't read it myself, or to them, yet. After reading this review, I can't wait to read it, and I
    know I'm going to love it.

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  2. I miss this book already. Like you said, what I love about her writing is that she conveys life as it really is to children, but she does it in a way that is not overwhelmingly hopeless...she offers hope in dark situations and shows that there are some things in life that aren't pleasant, but we get through them, pick up the pieces, put them back together and move on. She really has a true gift for children's literature and she's a gift to kids around the world...and to us adults, who are we kidding ;)

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  3. this one is already on the wish list lol.. and i loved her Tale of Despereaux!

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  4. Sounds like an interesting read. I like books that don't sugar coat things and have sickly sweet happy endings or pretend everything is ok. I know fiction is usually escapist, but that doesn't mean it has to be perfect. Many people expereince loss and then move on to if not better things, certainly other things that are worth while so it's good to know not to give up hope. Thanks for the review.

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  5. How do you do it?!! Seriously, Nymeth, I find myself reading your reviews over and over. Beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent...and that's just a few adjectives I could throw out there. I already have this on my "Rich, would you please, please, please get me this for my birthday?" list. If it hadn't been, it would be now.

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  6. Robin: Thank you! I am sure that you and your students will love this too!

    Chris: Yup, who are we kidding :P And yeah, I love that about her. She is realistic, but not bleak. She finds the exact right balance.

    Deslily: You will love this one too, I'm sure. She's such a great author!

    Rhinoa: I'm not a fan of sugar coated things either. This book actually has a happy ending, but it's a happiness that involves compromise, and accepting the fact that the things that were lost cannot be regained. It's a really cool story.

    Debi: Thank you so much...you are too nice; you seriously spoil me :P I'm sure that both you and your children will love this one!

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  7. Wow! That sounds really amazing! I have to admit this is the first time that I have heard of this author. Most of the books I have noticed for children tend to be too repetitive about the coming-to-age theme almost as if the authors are afraid to reach out on a different level to children. But, I have to say you have made a remarkable find. :] One of these days, I have to find time to read this book and absorb the lessons DiCamillo has to tell. Thank you for the wonderful review.

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  8. Edward Tulane is a beautiful book, I'm so glad you read and liked it. It is such a powerful story and packed much more of an emotional punch than I thought it would when I first picked it up to read it. It was one of those books that I literally couldn't put down. I read it from start to tearful finish in one sitting and it stayed with me for days. This is one that everyone who likes a good story should read. Should own!

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  9. Orchidus: I hadn't heard of her either until I saw other bloggers reviewing her books. She is really originally, and one of the best children's authors out there, in my opinion.

    Carl: It was thanks to you and Chris that I picked this up...thank you! And I agree. I picked this one up from the library, but now I definitely want my own copy!

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  10. Thanks for the great review, Nymeth! This really sounds like a great read, I will have to add this to my wishlist. And oh, I love the cover art too! ;)

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  11. Melody: The cover and the colour illustrations inside are beautiful! I hope you enjoy this one..it's such a great little book!

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  12. I just finished this book tonight. There were tears. Unexpected tears. Kate DiCamillo is such a gifted writer, and she has a unique, at times haunting, style. I've read The Tale of Despereaux, and I look forward to reading Because of Winn-Dixie.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.