Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a miraculous journey indeed. Edward Tulane is a china rabbit with real rabbit fur on his ears and tail.  He lived with Abilene Tulane on Egypt Street. Abilene adored Edward and dressed him in the finest clothing of handmade silk suits, custom shoes, a variety of hats, and pants with a small pocket for his pocket watch.  Although, Abilene loved and cared for Edward deeply, he did not return the love to Abilene.  Edward is a cold, self-centered rabbit that cares only about himself. 
Pellegrina, Abilene’s grandmother, recognizes Edward’s cold character.  After all, she is responsible for Edward.  She had ordered Edward and purchased all of his finest apparel.  One evening, Pellegrina tells Abilene and Edward a fairly tale about a princess that does not know how to love.  At the end of the tale Pellegrina leaned close to Edward and said, “You disappoint me.”  It is not long before Edward begins his miraculous journey.
Edwards journey ends with a happily ever after but it isn’t without some heartache and reflection.  The grand lifestyle that Edward once knew is long gone after he is tossed overboard while the family is vacationing on the Queen Mary.  Over many years, Edward had many different owners.  A fisherman found him first and brought him home to his wife. During his time with them Edward learns to listen.  For the first time, Edward’s heart begins to open up.  Edward’s journey continues in a garbage dump, he travels with a hobo and his dog, he is hung out in a garden to scare the birds away, and then he is taken by a boy, Bryce. Bryce gave Edward to Sarah Ruth, his sick four year old girl sister. Edward had never been loved by anyone like he had been loved by Sara Ruth.  “Edward felt the whole of his china body flood with warmth.”  Eventually, Sarah passed and Bryce and Edward went on to Memphis.  While they are in Memphis Edward has a near death experience and comes back to life as Bryce sacrifices the rabbit to a man who is able to repair Edward.  The man, Lucius Clark owned a doll shop.  He fixed Edward then placed him on the shelf for sale.  Bryce would return to see Edward each day until Lucius told him not to return. 
  As Edward reflects upon the fairy tale that Pellegrina shared he feels she has cursed him.  He is thinking, “You got your wish.  I have learned how to love.  And it’s a terrible thing.  I’m broken.  My heart is broken.”  Edward began to take pride in the fact that his heart was silent and closed.  Until he meets another doll that is placed on the shelf beside him.  She had some profound wisdom for him.  “You disappoint me. If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless.”  “Open your heart.  Someone will come.  Someone will come for you.  But first you must open your heart.”  Edward is able to open his heart and there is a “Happily ever after….”
The illustrations in this book are rich with detail.  At the beginning of each chapter there are small framed sepia-toned drawings. However, throughout the book there are random larger framed illustrations that are acrylic gouache and use a wide range in color plates.  These pictures help bring this story to life and complement DiCamillo’s descriptive language.  There is an illustration on p. 33 that matches the third person narrative that describes Pellegrina.  “Pellegrina was very old.  She had a large, sharp nose and bright, black eyes that shone like dark stars.”  The illustrations throughout the book reflect the mood and tone as it changes.  My heart aches every time I look at p. 177 as Bryce enters the store one more time to have one more moment with Edward.   
Kate DiCamillo surprised me with this book.  She had developed such a strong arrogant character with Edward in the beginning that I really didn’t feel for him at all.  However, as he goes on his journey and begins to transform one can’t help but feel emotionally vested in his experiences with some of the other characters.  He also encounters some controversial issues such as death, a near death experience and resurrection, abuse, homelessness and poverty. 
After reading this story I was wondering who this book was really written for.  I have come to the conclusion that it is for both children and adults.  As we traveled along with Edward on his journey we are reminded about the hurt that goes along with loving, but regardless of our pain we must continue to open our hearts again and again. 

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