The Velveteen Rabbit

Komako Sakai, Author, Komako Sakai, Created by
Komako Sakai, trans. from the Japanese by Yuki Kaneko. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $17.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59270-128-5
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Everyone remembers that the Velveteen Rabbit receives a fairy’s gift of life. But at its core, Margery Williams’s classic story is about stark realities: humans are brusque and unreliable, toys wear out, and—above all—one is either real or one is not. “He hasn’t got any hind legs!” sneers a real rabbit in the original version’s woodland scene. “ ‘Fancy a rabbit without any hind legs!’ And he began to laugh.” In Sakai’s (In the Meadow) retelling, those cruel truths are considerably softened and pared down—where Williams sometimes seemed to prolong the afflictions of her hero, Sakai touches on them only long enough to give her story some emotional heft before moving on. Sakai’s illustrations, richly textured paintings done in acrylic and oil pencil, retain the original’s Edwardian setting, while cushioning the story’s sharp edges with blankets of smudgy, luminous color. Throughout, Sakai emphasizes the rabbit’s stiff, toylike unreality, showing him lying forgotten in the garden beside a shovel or propped up against a tree. It’s an elegant condensation, but in the process, much of the emotional power has been dialed down. Ages 4–up. (Nov.)
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