Finck: The Velveteen Rabbit’ deserves to be read again and again

By Tracey Finck,
Reading Corps Literacy Tutor

A boy finds a toy rabbit in his stocking one Christmas. The rabbit becomes temporarily forgotten, left in the toy cupboard. While there, he learns from the old leather horse that it is possible to become “real.” It happens only “when a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”
“‘Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’”
This is how the classic children’s story “The Velveteen Rabbit,” by Margery Williams, begins. As you can tell, we’re in for a bit of suffering. But the pain is transformed by love, and so the suffering turns out to be the doorway to a much richer life.
No matter how many times you’ve read this little story, it’s worth reading once again this season. The full text along with illustrations is available online by searching “The Velveteen Rabbit.”
“Some books are to be tasted,” advised Sir Francis Bacon, “others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
“The Velveteen Rabbit” is in the last category. The plot is simple, charming, and easily understood by children. Yet at the same time, the truths it illustrates are deep and profound and multi-layered.
I was reminded of Margery Williams’ story this week by Ann Voskamp, who refers to it in her new book “The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life.” Voskamp writes that one day she was complaining to her sister about the heartaches of parenting. Her sister said, “You are a velveteen mother. This is making you more beautiful.” Ann reflects, “The miracle of real happens when you let all your suffering create love.”
Voskamp grew up on a farm. “My dad told me this once,” she writes. “For a seed to come fully into its own, it must become wholly undone. The shell must break open, its insides must come out, and everything must change. If you didn’t understand what life looks like, you might mistake it for complete destruction.”
Aging looks like destruction. So do problems and crises and imperfections and difficulties and disappointments and impossibilities. But if we let ourselves love and be loved through and despite and within the destruction, we’ll find ourselves becoming Real, and that’s what Real Life is all about.
What books do you find worth rereading? What stories help you interpret life? You can reach me at [email protected] And remember to read 20 minutes today.