Scale of 1-10: 10
Pros: Great writing - DiCamillo really knows her audience, but she also writes bedtime stories, perfect for reading aloud and good reading for the adult, not just the child. The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are fantastic, and there are full page color plates throughout.
Cons: None. It might be nice if there were more color plates, but not necessary.
Synopsis: Vain and heartless, porcelain rabbit Edward Tulane falls overboard on an ocean cruise with the little girl who loves him and through a series of miracles and mishaps, learns to care for others.
DiCamillo has really quite outdone herself with this one. It's bound to become a classic. It's easily read aloud, with DiCamillo's trademark short chapters and easy language, and Edward is very well-developed; children should have no problem identifying with him as he becomes more real. The story moves very well and will hold young readers' interest. I read the whole thing through in about an hour, maybe an hour and a half - I just did not want to put it down. DiCamillo makes excellent use of language, capturing a time when little girls had porcelain rabbit toys with real rabbit fur ears and tales and complete wardrobes with pocket watches but still making the book's voice easily accessible to younger readers. It flows well and makes excellent bedtime reading.
The story isn't just about a rabbit's journey, however. It's about love and learning to love. It's also about loss, as throughout his journey, Edward is separated from each of the persons he learns to love, until once again he is reunited with the little girl who loves him so well at the book's beginning. All the characters are very well-written and whole, not just characters who serve as foils for the main character. One wants to know more about them and how they fare - I wished they could all be reunited with Edward. There's more than a bit of melancholy in the tale, as Edward learns to love and each person he learns to love is in turn lost to him, but it's a marvelous kind of melancholy, building always to a happy ending. The epilogue made me cry, but it made me cry in a great way, as Edward lives happily ever after with the girl he has learned to love with all his heart and soul.
I can't sing the praises of this book highly enough. It was nominated for a Quills Award and won a Boston Globe Horn Book Award, but I find it shocking and appalling for it not to be a Newbery Winner. It really should be. If you can get it in hard cover, it's well worth the price.