The expiration of the copyright on The Velveteen Rabbit (1922), and some obscure meeting of minds, has brought us four new editions--all in full color, all but the Plume/Godine entry in picture-book dimensions with vignetted as well as full-page illustrations (and full pages of type). The original William Nicholson pictures probably never appealed to children as much as to adults (the format, certainly, was off-putting); but no one of these four artists manages, as Nicholson did, to bring the Velveteen Rabbit to life. And if the Velveteen Rabbit isn't a character (as, for instance, Don Freeman's Corduroy and Beady Bear are), the story lacks emotional conviction. The Atkinson/Knopf edition has enticing endpapers--the Velveteen Rabbit, at dawn, gazing longingly into the garden--that better capture the poignance of his situation than anything inside. The text is wrapped around many small vignettes--of the other toys or the other, ""real"" rabbits--so that, with its stained-glass coloration, the book has the look of a late-19th-century illuminated text. But insofar as the pictures illustrate the story, they run to prettiness and easy sentimentality. Michael Hague's illustrations are of the Jessie Willcox Smith, minutely detailed sort--the Velveteen Rabbit, by contrast, is probably the most completely stuffed of the lot. The Plume/Godine book has a smaller, rather pleasant format (though the text is in a very small type too); the cutesy, vacant pictures, however, are greeting-card art. As for the Tien/S&S version, it's wishy-washy in every respect--weak pastel colors, limp drawing, banal details (lots of butterflies, for instance). But every now and again Tien does try to give the story some dramatic punch and, however clumsily, to convey the discarded and forgotten rabbit's misery. The period design too, doesn't have the class of the Atkinson/Knopf edition, but it does have a homely appeal.
Pub Date: April 3, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Knopf; Holt, Rinehart & Winston; Godine; Simon & Schuster