The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The Miraculous Journey of Edward TulaneThe Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane explores surprising emotional depths for a novel about a china rabbit. Edward is definitely not animate—I would call him a doll except he would take it as an insult. Although he thinks and he feels a full range of emotions, he doesn’t do anything that an inanimate object can’t do. His painted eyes never close, so he never sleeps. He doesn’t breathe, so he can survive under water. He can’t move on his own or talk to people—although apparently he can talk with other toys.

Edward is the beloved toy of young Abilene. He sits at the dining table and she talks to him, but he’s self-centered and, unless she’s talking about him, he ignores what’s going on. Abilene’s parents humor her, thinking it’s cute that she loves the rabbit so much. But Abilene’s grandmother knows that Edward is aware and that he’s self-centered and that he doesn’t love Abilene the way she loves him.

Then Edward goes overboard during a sea voyage. The journey that results is as much an emotional journey as a physical one as he travels for years, enduring many misadventures before his journey comes to its end.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


The whole book is pretty much about love. When Abilene’s grandmother realizes that Edward doesn’t love Abilene, she tells a story about a princess who loves no one. Then she’s turned into a warthog. The end. Without love there is no happy ending.

Edward thinks this story is stupid, but once he begins his journey and is away from Abilene, he starts to understand the point. He learns to love many people—an older couple dealing with loss, a hobo and his dog, a very sick young girl and the older brother who cares for her—and he learns first hand the consequences of not caring for people. Love hurts, immensely. But without it, life isn’t worth living.


Love makes loss that much more painful. Because Edward can’t move of his own accord, each separation—and there are many—is something done to him. First he’s accidentally thrown overboard and spends nearly a year on the bottom of the ocean. He’s finally fished out, but then the nasty grown daughter of the older couple throws him away. He’s dug up by a dog and travels with the hobos for years, but then gets thrown off a train by an angry guard. He’s rescued by Bryce who takes him home to Sarah Ruth, his sick sister, but then she dies and Bryce runs away with Edward. Then Edward’s head is smashed to pieces by the owner of a diner. Bryce takes Edward to a doll mender who agrees to fix him, but only if the boy promises never to see Edward again. Knowing it’s the only way to save Edward, Bryce agrees. Edward sits, depressed and grumpy, in the store for years before he finally finds some hope within himself, and then he’s reunited with Abilene, now grown. Edward is the only constant in the story, as everyone else he loves is taken from him. He never learns the fate of those who he leaves behind, except for Abilene, but they remain a part of him.

Edward has a dream in which he sees all those he’s left behind, except for Sarah Ruth. He longs to know what happened to her, and he’s told that she’s become a constellation and that he can’t be with her right now. His longing helps him grow wings to fly to her, but those he loves hold him back, keeping him on the ground with them. It’s an interesting analogy for dealing with death and loss.

The fisherman and his wife lost a 5 year old son to pneumonia and the wife mentions how hard it is to watch someone you love die right in front of you. Bryce’s sister, Sarah Ruth, dies of her illness. Edward and Bryce both take it hard. The alcoholic father who neglected her takes charge of the body, which is when Bryce and Edward run away—Bryce wanted to bury her himself since he took care of her when she was alive, but he’s no match for his dad. Various ways of dealing with grief are explored through the course of all this loss.


Edward is always Edward, even though he goes through many incarnations at the hands of whoever he’s with. With the fisherman and his wife he’s Susanna, with handmade beautiful dresses. The hobo somehow knows he’s male; he names him Malone and makes him clothes from an old knit cap and other discarded items. With Sarah Ruth he has to put up with the indignity of being hugged and cradled like a doll and having his ears sucked on, but by this time his oft-broken heart is open to being whatever this poor sick child needs him to be. The doll mender sees through the tattered exterior, restoring him outwardly to his original glory, but internally Edward is a much different rabbit than he was at the beginning of the book.

Edward never speaks or moves, but quite a number of people realize that he’s aware of what’s going on around him. It’s often mentioned that he looks like he’s really listening. Some people, however, can’t see that—maybe a lack of imagination and insight?

Violence and Bullying

Those who separate Edward from those he loves and who love him are almost always really awful about it. Boys steal Edward from Abilene and start throwing him around. The daughter of the older couple is embarrassed that her parents seem to be treating a china rabbit like a child, so she throws it away even though she’s well aware that it will hurt them. The guard on the train beats up the hobo and kicks the dog—this is the first time Edward truly wishes he could move on his own because it’s so hard to do nothing while his friends are attacked. The woman who finds him next is Bryce’s employer, and she’s just awful to the boy. Bryce’s father is a drunk who doesn’t care for his sick daughter and abuses his son. The diner owner gets mad when Bryce can’t pay, even though Bryce is trying to find a way to make up for it, and smashes Edward’s head quite brutally. The doll mender seems pretty heartless in a business-like kind of way. When Bryce comes to see how Edward was fixed up, the doll mender pretty much throws him out of the store. As much as the story is about love, it’s also about what the absence of love looks like.


My son’s 4th grade teacher was reading this out loud to the class, but didn’t finish it before the school year ended. My son was so enamored with it that he made sure we picked up a copy and he encouraged me to read it. I was surprised by the emotional depth of the book and how well it avoided being sickeningly sweet while exploring the well-worn theme of learning to love others. It’s full of gorgeous pencil drawings.

It’s a great book for precocious readers—there’s much to think about, but it’s told on a level easy for younger kids to grasp. Reluctant readers may not be thrilled with a story about a china rabbit, but those who can get past that may appreciate the depth, the short chapters, and the art. I think it would make a great read aloud that would lead to good conversations.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Published in 2006 by Candlewick Press
Read my son’s copy

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