Friday, February 13, 2015

Going By the Book: An Excerpt from "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane"

Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper and Ann Noble in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
The book cover.
Author Kate DiCamillo says a very elegant rabbit doll she received as a gift inspired her writing of the wondrous tale, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

“Not long after receiving the rabbit, I had this very clear image of him underwater, on the bottom of the sea, minus all of his finery, lost and alone,” DiCamillo relates.

“I wasn’t thinking particularly of other books when I was writing Edward, but looking back, I can see that I was influenced by some pretty powerful stories: The Mouse and His Child, Pinocchio, Winnie-the-Pooh, Alice in Wonderland. I can see the influence of all of those masterpieces in my small story,” she says. 

Below is an excerpt from chapters eight and nine from DiCamillo’s book. We join the story just after the fisherman, Lawrence, rescues Edward from the sea.

On land, the old fisherman stopped to light a pipe, and then, with the pipe clenched between his teeth, he walked home, carrying Edward atop his left shoulder as if he were a conquering hero. The fisherman balanced him there, placing a callused hand at Edward’s back. He talked to him in a soft, low voice as they walked.

“You’ll like Nellie, you will,” said the old man. “She’s had her sadness, but she’s an all-right girl.”
Edward looked at the small town blanketed in dusk: a jumble of buildings huddled together, the ocean stretching out in front of it all; and he thought that he would like anything and anybody that was not at the bottom of the sea.

“Hello, Lawrence,” called a woman from the front of a shop. “What have you got?”

“Fresh catch,” said the fisherman, “fresh rabbit from the sea.” He lifted his cap to the lady and kept walking.

“There you are, now,” said the fisherman. He took the pipe out of his mouth and pointed with the stem of it at a star in the purpling sky. “There’s your North Star right there. Don’t never have to be lost when you know where that fellow is.”

Edward considered the brightness of the small star.

Do they all have names? he wondered.

“Listen at me,” said the fisherman, “talking to a toy. Oh, well. Here we are, then.” And with Edward still on his shoulder, the fisherman walked up a stone-lined path and into a little green house.

“Look here, Nellie,” he said. “I’ve brought you something from the sea.”

“I don’t want nothing from the sea,” came a voice.

“Aw, now, don’t be like that, Nell. Come and see, then.”

An old woman stepped out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on an apron. When she saw Edward, she dropped the apron and clapped her hands together and said, “Oh, Lawrence, you brung me a rabbit.”

“Direct from the sea,” said Lawrence. He took Edward off his shoulder and stood him up on the floor and held on to his hands and made him take a deep bow in the direction of Nellie.

“Oh,” said Nellie, “here.” She clapped her hands together again and Lawrence passed Edward to her.

Nellie held the rabbit out in front of her and looked him over from tip to toe. She smiled. “Have you ever in your life seen anything so fine?” she said.

Edward felt immediately that Nellie was a very discerning woman.

“She’s beautiful,” breathed Nellie.

For a moment, Edward was confused. Was there some other object of beauty in the room?

“What will I call her?”

“Susanna?” said Lawrence.

“Just right,” said Nellie. “Susanna.” She looked deep into Edward’s eyes. “First off, Susanna will need some clothes, won’t she?”

And so Edward Tulane became Susanna.

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