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07 April 2006


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I am a naysayer to this book as I said in my blog (it is linked to the Wash Post article). And the reason is primarily contained in your second sentence. "This book is a tearjerker. It made me cry so much my nose was running. It was brutal." I just don't think that we need sad, sad books to make our children experience life.

Yes, other books have sad parts or sad ending, but they are essential to the core element of the book, not the entire point of the book. And the author does have a point. You say that a story doesn't have to have a moral, but it seems to me that the author is trying to convey a moral. I don't have the book with me now, but the grandmother basically threatens the china rabbit that he needs to learn to love. Which apparently involves being emotionally and physically broken. That is not a message I want conveyed to my child. I don't think it is useful.

The illustrations are lovely, and the writing style is beautiful. I just don't see the point of giving a 3rd/4th grader or younger (and no 5th and up is going to want to read about a china rabbit), a book this, as you said, "brutal."


Of course, every child is different and every parent has to figure out what their own kid is or isn't ready for -- I did mean to mention in my write-up that this book would be a good one for parents to read first, just so that they know what they're getting into...

I still don't buy it about the moral, though. The grandmother is such a scary figure -- it seems, to me, that Pellegrina supplying the moral would be like the Wicked Queen teaching Snow White about right and wrong.

The closest thing to a moral I can find in the story is that Edward realizes that there's more to life than sitting in a fancy house. He develops an appeciation for other people and their feelings & becomes less self-centered. Granted, he changes through a very, very rough journey, but I still don't think that most kids would be traumatized by it. I think it might be more traumatizing for adults, actually -- The Golden Compass shattered me as a grown-up, but most of the kids I know who have read it just saw it as a rip-roaring adventure. I thought Coraline was creepy and terrifying, but all the kids I know thought it was (again) an action/adventure. So I really think that age weighs in, somehow. I'll be interested to see how kids respond to it.


I loved Edward Tulane - like you, I had the tears and the snot. I don't think every child would appreciate it (how snooty did that sound?) but it's still an excellent book. I have to admit that I became irritated with the WP article as soon as they said that KD won "last year's" Newbery for Despereaux - please check your facts before you publish, okay?

I would disagree that the sad bits are the entire book. There is sadness at each step, but also ultimately joy - and I think I sometimes cried harder over those bits - and I think it IS important for books to acknowledge to kids that life isn't smooth and easy and happy. I think we need to give kids more credit for being able to process things like this. To figure out for themselves why it's worth reading. And I don't think that it would be necessarily as much of a tearjerker for kids, like you said, Leila.


I have to say, I loved this book, and have been recommending it left and right. I do think it has a moral, and it kind of surprised me, because DiCamillo's other books seemed to be less like that. However, if she published a grocery list, I would probably run out and buy it.

On the sadness issue, I really don't see the problem. Some of my favourite books when I was a kid were the ones that made me cry. Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved can get me going just thinking about them even today. What's wrong with being sad? Sad stuff happens, and it seems that reading about sad stuff is a good preparation for that. Obviously it would be great if your kids could go through life and nothing bad would ever happen to them, but that seems a little unrealistic.


One more comment and then I'm done...

"Why, in any case, demonize a child's natural self-involvement, which is all that's "wrong" with Edward?"

I think there's a little bit more wrong with Edward than natural self-involvement. The writer of that article seemed torn between viewing Edward as just a toy - in which case it's perfectly fine if he can't love - and as more of a person - in which case the story is brutal and horrifying. You can't have it both ways. If the story is going to resonate, it has to be about Edward growing up.


Jess, I think that's a really important point you made about the joyful parts. They made me cry, too. And I think that the highs were so high and the lows were so low that all of my emotions were hightened all the more.

I was also thinking about the adults in the book -- some of them are wonderful, like the fisherman and his wife and Bull (I really loved him, but that's not surprising), and some of them are awful and scary. And I think that's pretty realistic. I think it's safe to say that there's at least one adult in every kid's life that scares the bejebus out of them, regardless of whether or not the adult is actually horrible.

E.R. Bird

I've avoided reviewing this book for quite some time but I think the time is coming when I shall have to weigh in. One of my co-workers thinks this book is the work of the devil himself. Another thought the pictures were pretty. I fall somewhere in between. Children's books are sad, yes. Of course they are. We won't get into another "Welcome To the Lizard Motel" debate about that. But "Tulane" has a couple very odd things going on in it. From the I-haven't-seen-a-pretty-blond-child-die-of-consumption-in-decades element, to the crazy violence done to the rabbit, to the nailing of Tulane to the cross, to the fact that the love he seeks is an adult love and not a child's.... well, there are some pretty odd things going on here. Obviously we as adults read children's books through our own distinct and peculiar filters. Still, there's something very weird going on with this bunny book. Then again, I don't know if I'm the best judge. "Despereaux" drove me crazy too.


I loved Winn-Dixie and Tiger -- Tale of D left me feeling that maybe it won the Newbery because the judges felt that KD deserved it due to her previous books. (Similar to my feeling that Catherine, Called Birdy is far superior to Midwife.)

I wonder if the scene with Edward being nailed to the cross is more strange because of the (admittedly creepy) illustration -- I'll have to re-read the actual passage.


As I was making a comment on the FuseNumber8 site, I found I wanted to add something back to this discussion here.

When my daughter was five, she loved her Huggy Bear just one notch below her family. My 4th grader occasionally worries that she won't be able to take her favorite doll to college because she'd be laughed at. She's a pretty mature girl in many ways, but can't conceptualize not needing her doll when she gets older. The idea that their favorite things would be abused, lost, tortured, and broken, would probably just about kill them, even though they know these are not living things.

But Edward is a living thing in that he is conscious of every dreadful experience, but he is powerless to control his situation in any way at all. Unlike the toys in some other stories, he appears to be trapped in his body, able to feel but not able to influence what happens to him.

Adults are evil, useless, or selfish. The path to feel love is long and tortured. Abuse is good for the soul. You are powerless to control your fate. I don't know what the message is supposed to be, but one doesn't put a bunny on a cross without trying to convey something.


I hate to weigh in on this one since I haven't read it yet, but this quote from MotherReader struck me, "Adults are evil, useless, or selfish," because I think that's the lesson of many, many children's books (True Confessions of CD, anything by Aiken, all the HP books, Moves Make the Man, most Crutcher books--and that's just off the very top of my head).

Maybe because it's the real problem of growing up writ large and dramatic?
I know those are my favorite kind of books, anyway, and were when I was a kid too.

*If you replace "useless" with "ineffectual" or maybe just add ineffectual, it makes sense, I swear.

Lynn Chamberlain

I loved Edward Tulane because it spoke to my soul, the same way "The Secret Garden" and "Bambi" did when I was a child. I suppose I could analyze the whys, but I'll just say this book is for every child (and child within) who has ever loved a stuffed animal with their whole being. An absolutely beautiful book in every way.


I want to respond to MotherReader's comment that no 5th grader and up is going to want to read about a china rabbit. My 13 and 15 year old daughters loved Edward Tulane, and my 12 year old neice shared it with several bunk mates at camp this summer. They read a lot of teen fiction, but still loved this story. My 75 year old father read it cover to cover at the beach and was quite moved. I plan to read it to my 3rd and 4th graders this year. They may even be a little young to grasp all the nuances. I'd like to read it with my sixth graders and compare the survival/Identity story with Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, but I'm not sure yet...I think the story is timeless and ageless.


To address MotherReader, what better lesson to a child than to teach the value of love and to show what being selfish can do. This book is a beautiful story of how to love and that it is never too late to love. I'm going to teach it to my seventh grade class this year. I brought the book into school to read during my lunch and one of my students saw it and asked to look at it. He kept it for our independent reading time and was enthralled with this. This is a student who rarely would read. That's good enough for me.


I looooooooved Edward Tulane and I just had the idea of proposing it for next year's "one county one book" program. Is this completely insane?


Well, if the comments are any indicator, it'll definitely spark conversation!


My 14 year old son listened to the audio version and liked it so much he recommended we listen to it while on a recent car trip together. I found the story immediately engaging, and was amazed to find Edward discovering the 4 primary feelings (sadness, fear, anger, happiness) we'd recently talked about in a family discussion. The joy, cost, and value of love was also revealed. We not only enjoyed the book, but had several enjoyable and deep discussions result from our experiences with it.


Thanks for the comment, Betsy -- responses to ET have been so varied!


This book was awesome.......................... i had the best time reading it

monica dominguez

i love Edward Tulen. my teacher rea dit to us and just finshed it.


I have read this book two years in a row to my third grade class. The first time just as a read aloud. This year I read it as an interactive read aloud and boy did my kids get into it!!! They were upset each day when we stopped reading it. As others have said, it is quite sad, but for my students they were able to connect with the sadness that Edward experienced. It gave them a place to share their experiences without feeling singled out. The way Edward experienced all types of emotions truly helped my students see that everyone can feel emotion and that it's OK.

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