cover image Emma Bean

Emma Bean

Jean Van Leeuwen. Dial Books, $13.99 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1392-5

Pieced together from the ``scraps of long-ago dress,'' the button-eyed bunny Emma Bean is sent as a gift to the infant Molly. The toy's first encounter with ``her'' girl is not promising: ``there she was, face-to-face with a baby. . . . Its mouth was wide open and it was crying. The noise was just terrible.'' In the years that follow, the stoic stuffed animal accompanies Molly to the doctor's office, shares Molly's meals, participates willingly in Molly's father's game of Toss the Bunny, and listens to Molly's bedtime secrets. Van Leeuwen's tender yet unsentimental text is studded with telling details: runaway Molly packs ``her pillow and pajamas and crayons and motorcycle.'' Realistic watercolors echo the story's moods through clever use of light and shadow. While avoiding an anthropomorphic approach, the nostalgia-tinged illustrations give a sense of the myriad of emotions that seem to emanate from the toy rabbit. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)