In this special series, we asked writers we admire to share a book they're giving to their friends and family this holiday season. Check back daily to see the books your favorite authors are gifting.
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Kate DiCamillo has written several wonderful books — among them The Tale of Despereaux, The Magician's Elephant, Because of Winn-Dixie — all of which would make wonderful gifts. If I had to choose just one, it would be The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Ms. DiCamillo is known as a writer for children and has won numerous awards in that field, including the Newbery Medal, but she is a storyteller of such grace and charm that her books provide as much pleasure for adults as for children. Children will never feel that she is writing down to them, and adults will never feel that her writing is too simple, for it is in fact complex in theme and rich in emotion. Few writers have ever made me laugh out loud and, in the same book, moved me to tears, but Ms. DiCamillo does both, book after book.
Edward Tulane is a child's toy, an elegant china rabbit with flexible limbs, with real rabbit-fur ears and tail, who is loved by a 10-year-old girl named Abilene Tulane. Now, if you think this is a story about a toy that comes alive, you are right and wrong. Edward is alive in that he thinks and feels, loves and fears, but he's not one of those magic toys that sprints from adventure to adventure. In fact, he can't move at all. He is entirely at the mercy of people and the many dangers of the world. Yet he has amazing adventures at sea and on land, and he endures a journey that is no less than epic. It is Edward's immobility that provides some of the most touching and hilarious moments in the story — a test of the author's imagination, which she passes with an A+.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a marvelous book in part because, without one note of Polyanna treacle, Kate DiCamillo writes of the power of hope. She makes the case that with hope we can endure anything and that hope sustained brings beauty into the world and becomes a reliable path to love. For Edward Tulane, a broken heart is always but the precondition to a heart healed, and all suffering is redeemed by love. A child enthralled by this story will surely learn, among other valuable and subtly presented lessons, that the value of a life cannot be judged by a person's physical capabilities; Edward is essentially a quadriplegic, at the mercy of others, and yet between his rabbit ears and within his heart he lives a rich and rewarding life.
This book is also graced with delightful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline, whose talent is remarkable and whose technique dazzles. In the forthcoming holidays, I will treat myself to another reading of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and I will also give it as a gift with total confidence that it will be treasured.