The Velveteen Rabbit has for decades been widely regarded as a must-read title for young children. Margery Williams’ whimsical book about a toy bunny that magically transforms into a real rabbit resonates with any young child’s dreams that his or her toys could become somehow become as real as life.
One of the most appealing aspects that The Velveteen Rabbit offers to children growing up in the 1900s is the range of toy characters that are found in the story. A common toy rabbit is the main character, a toy horse is another, and mechanical and tin toys also populate the book. Young audiences growing up in the decades ago could have certainly related to the idea of playing with these types of toys.
Children of the 1900s could also relate to the young human character in The Velveteen Rabbit that loves his rabbit. Though young girls reading this book may have less identified with a male character, at the very least children of both genders (growing up in what was then a male-centric world) could have placed themselves in the shoes of a young child who treasures his stuffed rabbit.
A significant point not to be overlooked is that the velveteen rabbit itself is described in the story as a common toy of average quality. This is a key ingredient for making the book relatable to the masses of youth across many socio-economic levels.
The most fanciful part of The Velveteen Rabbit comes at in the latter segment, when the rabbit itself is transformed by a fairy who grants the plushy character life as a real rabbit. This is an element of the story that would have stirred the imaginative minds of many youth and would resonate with the many young readers who indeed wished their toys could come to life.
Young children of the 1900s would have also loved the vivid, detailed descriptions of color in The Velveteen Rabbit. When the book was first published color printing was still rather uncommon. Color movies were still a concept of the future. Yet, the delicious descriptions of the toys, characters, and scenes in this book could have clearly painted the story for most any young, imaginative mind.
It seems The Velveteen Rabbit today would have a smaller audience than it had several decades ago mainly because of the higher level of worldly awareness young children seem to have today. Children’s exposure to more technologically sophisticated toys also would have an ebbing effect on the book’s audience. In a world where five-year-olds can be expected to operate basic cell phones and even handle some computer functions for entertainment, a young child today with access to such advanced devices may not find much amusement in playing with a simple stuffed toy.
Therefore, a story predicated on the “life” of a toy rabbit may have somewhat less relevance to the lives of today’s child. However, The Velveteen Rabbit can still find a wide young audience thanks to the story’s timeless quality of vivid narration, a quaint cast of characters, and a charmingly whimsical plot that will forever spark the imaginations of young people.
My reading of “The Velveteen Rabbit.” Williams, M. Avon Books, 1922.