If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember that we read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, about a month ago for a rabbit-themed family chapter book read aloud just before Easter. It had probably been at least 10 years since I had read this book in the classroom, and I was struck every single day we read by just how beautiful this book is. On top of that, my girls absolutely LOVED Edward’s story, asking for more and more chapters each day we read (I think we were able to finish this in about 4 days!). Sharing what makes The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane so magical became obviously necessary, so read on for a little insight into the emotional evolution of this beloved toy.
DiCamillo opens this novel with a quote: “The heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking. It is necessary to go through dark and deeper dark and not to turn” (from “The Testing-Tree” by Stanley Kunitz). You know from that moment that Edward’s journey is no ordinary adventure of his body, but rather a life-changing journey of his heart. And life-changing it is!
When Edward’s story begins, we meet Edward, a fine china doll who lives a life of leisure and is very much loved by his girl, Abilene. Though Abilene loves Edward dearly, Edward cares for no one other than himself, and this fact doesn’t bother Edward in the slightest. Until, that is, Abilene’s grandmother (a fairy godmother-type figure) tells Abilene and Edward a dark and meaningful bedtime story, warning of the perils of hard hearts that feel no love. Shortly after this disturbing story, Abilene and Edward board a ship to travel to London, and it is on this voyage that Edward’s heart journey really begins.
Accidentally thrown overboard, Edward finds himself face-down at the bottom of the ocean, where “he experienced his first genuine and true emotion” — fear. From here, his evolution takes place over the course of many years, as he gets caught in a fisherman’s net, thrown out with the trash, claimed by a hobo, used as a scarecrow, treasured by a boy and his terminally sick little sister, and more.
Along the way, he learns to love. He begins to care, he yearns for connection and those who have loved him, he mourns the loss of the important people, and he understands what gives life meaning and importance — real, deep, heartfelt love. The kind of love that you can’t stand to lose. The kind of love that sticks with you through a lifetime. The kind of love that makes others more important than you. The kind of love that is worth waiting for, if only you can first “open your heart” so that someone can come in. The kind of love that lets you know you are home.
While I thought the depth of the message would be lost on my young children, I was wrong. Yes, they loved Edward’s physical adventures and always cheered him on, but they also surprised me with their understanding of how his heart changed over the course of the book.
While I could go on and on about the beauty of DiCamillo’s story and Edward’s evolution, I’d be remiss to neglect Ibatoulline’s rich, emotional illustrations. The sepia-toned illustrations at the beginning of each chapter and the full-color paintings scattered throughout the story take you to a different world, a world in which rabbits possess the wisdom and insight that we all need.
Have you read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane yet? Have I convinced you that it’s a must-read?
If you liked this, check out:
- Any of Kate DiCamillo’s other stories. Because of Winn-Dixie will always be my favorite, but I’m also partial to The Tiger Rising and Great Joy (a Christmas picture book also illustrated by Ibatoulline), and my girls of course adore the Mercy Watson books. Really, though, you can’t go wrong with a DiCamillo book!