‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams

Children’s stories often get overlooked. Staying with a theme, I’m going to look at TheVelveteen Rabbit. As much as I love sparsity on the page, children’s writing has depth and complexity that gets bypassed. They can include social commentary, and usually have a perfect 3-part / 5-part structure. William’s rabbit “was fat and bunchy as a rabbit should be”. The other toys ignore him because he’s made of velveteen; the mechanical toys are the most superior and “Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by disabled soldiers and should have broader views”. When I taught creative writing in prisons so many people I taught didn’t get access to books. But often we could touch base by looking at fairy tales. At the first male prison I worked in – HMP Littlehey – we looked at these texts together. The men were working on a project called Story Book Dads where they wrote their own stories for their children and then we recorded them in the prison and then sent them back home. Children’s books were essential. They proved a great touchstone. The Velveteen Rabbit is one of those books – descriptive, emotional, powerful, symbolic beyond its 40 pages. The concept touched all of us – a velvet rabbit who becomes real through love.

First published 1922, George H. Doran. Available to read online here