The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane: A Buried Treasure and Hidden “Classic”
I recently read a book that was timeless “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo. The book tells the story of a china toy rabbit who is separated from his girl, to his annoyance, and finds himself caught up on a journey where he is moved from home to home while he is broken and lost in despair until he finds his girl again. Though a book for children to enjoy, it also underpins the age-old lesson of being grateful for what you have. This book won a literature children’s award decades ago, but I would never have learned of it if I hadn’t been looking for an ideal book for my daughter. So, it begs the question, what makes a book a “classic”?
Daniel Johnson, argues that “each classic is, by definition, unique and sui generis” (a class of its own). Johnson goes on to claim that western society has proven that a classic belongs in two distinct categories: archetypal or analytical. If this argument is solid to use as a comparable circumstance for determining classical literature, then indeed “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” would qualify as an archetypal classic. The reoccurring symbol or pattern within the story of the china rabbit is the idea of being grateful for what you have and that “there’s no place like home.”
Emer O’Sullivan, an expert who won the International Research Society for Children’s Literature Award for Outstanding Research in August 2001, has published her own thoughts on what makes a classic. O’Sullivan, in her original book “Kinderliterarische Komparastik” which was translated and republished as “Comparative Children’s Literature,” notes how children’s classics come from three sources: (1) appropriations of adult works; (2) adaptations from traditional (usually oral) narratives; and (3) works written specifically for children. By this standard then, DiCamillo’s book would indeed be a classic work as it falls in both the second and third sources as it had a traditional narrative and was also written specifically for children.
Society changes its opinion on what is popular or unpopular over a specific time frame. “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” won over my heart and that of my daughter as we read the bittersweet story with a lesson and satisfying ending. To me, the story of the china rabbit belongs in the category of classic literature.
Kidd, Kenneth. “Classic.” Keywords for Children’s Literature, edited by Philip Nel and Lissa Paul, NYU Press, 2011, pp. 52-58. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg46g.15.
Johnson, Daniel. “What Makes a Literary Classic; Books.” The Times, 3 June 1995.
Johnson, Sarah. “Children Often Teach Me.” Reading Today, vol.26, no.6, 2011.
O’Sullivan, Emer. Comparative Children’s Literature: Based on Her Book. Routledge, 2010.
“Plug In to These Stories.” The Washington Post, 30 June 2009.
Wood, Charlotte. “Books: What Makes a Classic?” Pharmacy News, 8 Nov. 2007.
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