Kate DiCamillo is all the rage right now. With two books made into Major Motion Pictures (Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux) her books are flying off the shelves as fast as the kids can grab them. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane hasn’t been made into a movie yet, but perhaps one day the china rabbit will be a star as well. In the meantime, people who recognize the author and toss this in their book pile may be surprised.
Edward is an incredibly vain, spoiled, pompous china rabbit who thinks only of himself. Over time he learns to love (aww, doesn’t your heart just melt?) from his many and varied owners. It’s really very touching, but overall the content is pretty sad. Also, Edward is not at all likable in the early parts of the book. I worry it will too late for some readers to change their opinion of him by the time he comes around.
The vocabulary in this book is quite difficult. I mean, you probably could see that coming when you can’t make it past the first page before you hit ennui. Other books that will send children scurrying for a dictionary are implications, condescending, discerning, excruciatingly and derogatory. And those are just the ones that impressed me enough to write about.
I’m not recommending this for primary grades because in addition to the higher level vocabulary, I feel there are quite a few things that might be upsetting to younger children.
This is the kind of book that adults really want to children to like, but I just don’t know if that will be the case. Please, if you know an actual child who enjoyed it, tell me about him or her, including his or her age, because I would love to know. I feel like I’m coming across as really negative on this book, and I’m not meaning to. Personally, I enjoyed it. I just haven’t come across a situation where I would recommend it to a child, which feels strange for me. Usually when I like a children’s book I’m chomping at the bit to share it.
Great for: Teaching lessons on schema change or character development. For students old enough to handle the content, this could a great choice for teachers who are looking to show how characters change over time, and your impression of them changes.
Grown-ups who want to read a kids book. Like I said, I’m still waiting to hear about the optimal child audience for this. No fair counting it if you read it aloud and edited out the sad/scary bits.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – None really, though when Edward is naked he feels intense feelings of shame.
Profanity – None
Death, Violence and Gore
- The nurse of Edward’s first owner tells a story to teach Edward a lesson. In the story a cold-hearted princess is turned into a warthog by a witch. She is subsequently shot and killed by hunters and then fed to the palace residents.
- Edward’s second owner tells him about her five year old son who died of pneumonia, describing it as drowning inside yourself and say it is the worst thing ever to watch someone you know die.
- Later, Edward is owned by a boy Bryce whose father is physically abusive. Bryce’s little sister, Sarah Ruth, dies of tuberculosis after coughing up blood.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – One of Edward’s owners smokes a pipe. Bryce’s father is drunk.
Frightening or Intense Things – Where do you start really? There’s the princess/warthog/eaten by her own people bit I just mentioned. Edward is thrown over the side of a boat and worries he will drown and die. Later Edward is thrown out and buried alive at the dump. The whole section where they wait for Sarah Ruth to die is sad, and when she does die, the father and Bryce have a verbal argument over who gets to have her body. Bryce runs away from home. Edward’s head is shattered. Also, although this is more subtle, there is (especially in the stories involving Bryce) a real feeling that adults lack compassion and are not necessarily trustworthy.