Children’s Books: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I’ve been a big fan of author Kate DiCamillo for a few years now, ever since I picked up The Tale of Despereaux on a whim. Since then I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through her whole catalog, most recently with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit doll who does not know how to love. He belongs to a girl named Abeline who cares for him very much, but Edward only cares for how fine he looks, or whether his dignity has been injured. One day he is lost, and for years he moves from place to place, person to person, seeing and understanding things as he never has before. He learns to love, but also that he can continue to love even after a loss.

The cover and the title were a bit deceiving to me. On the cover Edward walks towards a door. And the word “journey” implies that Edward will be moving around and doing stuff. But Edward is a doll, and while he can watch everything, and learn from it, he cannot choose where he goes and influence what happens to him. That kind of limitation makes me decidedly uncomfortable (it’s a bit of a phobia of mine) and it also makes me wonder, how can this work? How can Edward learn anything if he can’t make decisions and choose his path?

But this is where DiCamillo handles everything so well. Edward can make decisions: he can choose to listen to the people who adopt him, he can choose to remember the people he’s lost, and he can choose to let his heart open to hope and love. Edward is lost and taken and passed along for years, and at each new parting and meeting he learns something new, and while he thinks it will break him it changes him into something different, until finally he’s ready for his journey to be finished. It’s a heart wrenching story, but one I couldn’t put down until I came to the end.

And of course there is DiCamillo’s language, which is the number one reason why I love her books so much. Her words give all her books a magical quality, even the ones that have no magic in them, like The Tiger Rising. Kate DiCamillo is the children’s author that I most often try to write like; her stories always touch me, and even if the plot didn’t nab me her language would pull me in.
This passage comes just after Edward has been found by a poor boy and given to his dying sister:

Never in his life had Edward been cradled like a baby. Abeline had not done it. Nor had Nellie. And most certainly Bull had not. It was a singular sensation to be held so gently and yet so fiercely, to be stared down at with so much love. Edward felt the whole of his china body flood with warmth.

This was a wonderful book, by an author that has yet to disappoint me. Someday I hope to write a post specifically about why I find her language so wonderful.

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