Last year, when my daughter was in second grade, she brought home a book from the school library that she was insistent I read to her. I resisted initially since the book was within her reading level. Her reply? “I’ve already read it Mom. I want *you* to read it too.” And so I discovered the wonderful book that is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.
For the next week at bedtime, I read a chapter…sometimes two, of the story about a china rabbit as he is lost and found and lost and found again. When it was time to return the book to the library, we were only about halfway through it. Ordinarily, MiniMe can renew library books, but there was a waiting list for this one, so she needed to bring it back. That night at bedtime, she asked if we could go to the bookstore over the weekend and buy the book, but by this point, I was hooked and could do one better…”Why don’t I just buy it from ibooks?” I asked. I love to hold a book in my hands, but in this case, the instant gratification of the ebook was a wonderful compromise. Minutes later, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane was happily resting on a “shelf” in my ibooks library.
This is a story of the transformative power of love. When he is introduced to the reader, Edward Tulane is a child’s toy – a three foot tall china rabbit whose owner, ten year old Abilene Tulane loves him deeply. Each day after she dressed Edward in his beautiful clothes, she would set him up on a chair in the dining room so he could look out the window and watch for her to return from school. Despite the loving care of Abilene, Edward’s inner monologue betrays his vanity and self absorption:
One night at bedtime, shortly before the Tulane’s are set to embark on a sea voyage to Europe, Abilene’s grandmother tells Abilene and Edward a rather ominous story about how a failure to love those who loved her resulted in a beautiful princess being turned into a warthog. The point of the story is lost on Edward Tulane…for now. The next chapters tell how Edward is separated from Abilene and passes through the lives of all sorts of different people, learning to love and be loved along the way.
I was initially put off by Edward…such a vain, preening character, but with each chapter and each new experience, the story of Edward’s journey to love drew me further and further in. I remember the night we reached the final four or five chapters of the story. Mini Me and I were cozied up in her small bed as I read. She must have been unusually tired, because she dropped off to sleep as I was reading – ordinarily, she is a challenging child to put to bed (some days I think the book Go the F**k to Sleep was written with her in mind.) and I am more than ready to be about my business before she is ready to let me go. That night though, as she rolled over, zonked out, I could not stop reading…I had to find out how the story ended. By the end of Chapter 19, I was sniffling, and when the story closed in Chapter 27 I was gulping back sobs. In the morning I told Mini Me that I’d finished the book…she nodded sagely and asked, “Did you cry?”
A colleague of mine who teaches literature was telling me about a conversation she’d had in an adult ed course. One student was describing how a particular book had moved her to tears and another, who had previously admitted to never having finished a book, interjected perplexedly, “How can a book make you cry?” I think this is one of the most profoundly sad things I have ever heard. “How can a book make you cry?” I think that I would have to respond in Socratic fashion and ask, “How can you not be moved emotionally by certain stories?” The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is that kind of story for me…a book that never fails to move me. A book that I will never forget. A book that I am so excited to pass on to a new audience.