Saturday, 2 July 2011

rabbit story

I have been cleaning out the basement in my free time and I found some of my old books that I used to read when I was a kid. It’s strange to look at them. They were printed the year I was born in 1969, but the copyright goes back further than that. They are NOT politically correct and every white family has an “Auntie” that is African American and wears a ‘kerchief on her head

It is only by the grace of Sesame Street that I am not a bigot.
Even then, I wonder at myself when I look at these books that I loved and cherished as a child. To my mother’s credit, we usually read the stories that had no “Aunties” in them, like the Velveteen Rabbit. It was such a sad story and I loved to have my mom read it to me

This is the part of the story where the real rabbits make fun of the Velveteen Rabbit because he is not a “real” rabbit. Even today, the look on that stuffed bunny’s face makes me sad.
Human relations and sad stories aside, these books are a treasure trove of Sixties illustration. The simple lines of the first picture that make the girls look as if they are made of cardboard cutouts draw my eye. The fuzzy coloring of the bunnies makes me want to touch them. When I was a kid, I didn’t notice the illustration of my stories. I just took them for granted.
When I look at a current illustration for the same story, the artwork is much more realistic, but MUCH less emotional.
The real rabbit looks so authentic that I can’t see any of the mocking or teasing. The Velveteen Rabbit’s head is down, but it’s hard to see the shame that he is feeling.
I forget how much of storytelling is done with illustration. Would I have loved the Velveteen Rabbit so much if I had been introduced to the story with the “beautiful” illustrated version? I don’t know. All I know is that I can feel the shame from that crudely drawn stuffed animal so strongly that I actually HATE those real rabbits.

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