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Book Club Kits: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

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Book Summary

“ONCE, IN A HOUSE ON EGYPT STREET, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china.” So begins The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. That elegantly attired rabbit was a seventh birthday present to Abilene Tulane from her grandmother, Pellegrina. Every morning, Abilene, who is now ten, dresses Edward in one of his extraordinary handmade silk suits and hats and winds his gold pocket watch. She sits him at the dinner table each evening, and she tucks him into his own bed each night.

“I love you, Edward,” she tells him before going to sleep.

Edward never says anything in response, even though Abilene half expects him to, since of course he cannot speak. Nor does he particularly feel anything in response, since most of his thoughts and feelings center on himself. He never ceases to be amazed at his own fineness, considering himself to be “an exceptional specimen”; he is not much interested in what people have to say, including the devoted Abilene.

On Abilene’s eleventh birthday, her parents tell her the family will soon sail to London on the Queen Mary. That night Pellegrina tells Abilene and Edward a bedtime story about the terrible fate of a princess who loved no one. Edward, who prefers not to think unpleasant thoughts, is unmoved.

On the deck of the ocean liner, Edward receives admiring attention from many of the other passengers. However, two young brothers grab Edward off his deck chair, strip him of his clothing, and begin to play catch with him. When Abilene tries desperately to stop them, Edward goes overboard, into the ocean.

So commences Edward Tulane’s odyssey, from the bottom of the sea to rescue by a kind fisherman, and through a succession of caretakers. Though yearning for his old life on Egypt Street, Edward begins to experience life, love, and loss.

This guide will help you bring The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to your class in many different ways. There are lots of ideas and something for every classroom. Enjoy!

Discussion Questions


Before Reading:

Examine the cover of the book with your students and discuss it. Who is the author? Has she written any other books with which you are familiar? What are they about? Ask the questions below before you begin reading the book, and write down or make a chart of the children’s predictions. Ask the same questions again when you finish the book, and compare the children’s responses with those on the list or chart.

1. What do you think this book will be about?

2. Who is Edward Tulane?

3. What kind of journey could he be undertaking?

4. What might miraculous mean?

5. What do you think is happening on the cover?

While Reading:

1. How does Abilene feel about Edward? The day the maid misplaces Edward, Abilene runs from room to room, calling for him. Discuss why Abilene loves him so much. What emotion does Edward feel in return and why? What kind of person is Abilene Tulane? The story leaves Abilene on the deck of the Queen Mary, shouting to Edward, “Come back,” as he tumbles into the ocean. Discuss what you think happens to Abilene that day.

2. How and why do all adults (except Abilene’s sharp-eyed grandmother, Pellegrina) condescend, or talk down, to Edward?

What does it mean to have a condescending manner? Have you ever experienced an adult or a person older than you who condescended to you? How can you tell? Why do you think that person acted that way? How did you handle it?

3. Why does Pellegrina tell the story about a princess who loves no one and is turned into a warthog by a witch to Abilene and Edward? Why is Abilene indignant at the end of the story? What does Pellegrina mean when she says on page 34, “How can a story end happily if there is no love?” What is Edward’s reaction to the story? Why does Pellegrina say to Edward, “You disappoint me”? What does she expect of him?

4. Talking of his wife, Nellie, Lawrence says, “She’s had her sadness, but she’s an all-right girl” (page 61). Why is Nellie sad? Why does she confide in Edward, and how do they help each other?

5. When the old woman hangs Edward on a pole to scare away the crows in her garden, Edward thinks, “I am done with caring.” He feels mocked by the stars, which seem to say, “You are down there alone.” On page 113, he tells the stars, “I have been loved,” and they reply, “What difference does that make when you are all alone now?” Does it make a difference? Why does it matter to Edward that he has been loved? Is there a difference between the love Edward receives from Abilene at the beginning of the book and the love he receives from Sarah Ruth? How are his feelings toward Sarah Ruth different from anything he’s experienced before?

6. What are some of the life lessons Edward learns on his journey, through good times and bad? What life lessons have you acquired in your life that you would like to pass on to someone else?

Interview with the Author


Kate DiCamillo published her first book with Candlewick Press, Because of Winn-Dixie, while she was working at a used bookstore in Minnesota. It was awarded a Newbery Honor. Her third book, The Tale of Despereaux, was the Newbery Medal winner. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is the fifth book she has written for Candlewick Press.

Q. Where did you get the idea for writing a book about a large china rabbit?

A. A friend gave me a very elegant rabbit “doll” (sorry, Edward) for Christmas a couple of years ago. 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.

Q. Abilene’s grandmother, Pellegrina, is not happy with Edward. “You disappoint me,” she tells him. What does she expect of Edward?

A. Edward is, in many ways, Pellegrina’s creation, and because of that her expectations for him are huge. She perceives, quite clearly, that he has failed at the simple and impossible task he was created for: loving Abilene as she loves him.

Q. Are there any other books that inspired you in the writing of this one?

A. 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.

Q. Did any of this book come from your own childhood?

A. Everything that I write comes from my childhood in one way or another. I am forever drawing on the sense of mystery and wonder and possibility that pervaded that time of my life.

Q. What was a defining moment, good or bad, that shaped you as a child?

A. My father leaving the family certainly shaped who I was and how I looked at the world. By the same token, my father telling me fairy tales that he had made up shaped me profoundly, too. As did my mother reading to me.

Q. Do you have any suggestions for engaging and motivating young readers? Do you have any advice for classroom teachers or parents?

A. The best thing I know to tell parents and teachers about motivating young readers is that reading should not be presented to them as a chore, a duty. It should, instead, be offered as a gift: Look, I will help you unwrap this miraculous present. I will show you how to use it for your own satisfaction and education and deep, intense pleasure. It distresses me that parents insist that their children read or make them read. I think the best way for children to treasure reading is for them to see the adults in their lives reading for their own pleasure.

Interview with the Illustrator


Bagram Ibatoulline was born in Russia, graduated from the State Academic Institute of Arts in Moscow, and has worked in the fields of fine arts, graphic arts, mural design, and textile design. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is the sixth book he has illustrated for Candlewick Press.

Q. You change your style dramatically with each children’s book you illustrate, like an actor who never plays the same role twice. You’ve paid homage, always brilliantly, to Dutch masters, American realists, primitive folk art, Chinese scrolls, and more. Which style do you most enjoy using? What kind of research do you do for each book?

A. I enjoy any style—it is never my intention to copy a particular look or aesthetic. Instead I do a lot of groundwork and extensive research on the time period in order to come up with my own approach or style for a book that I can relate to and use naturally. I have a big reference library, and when that’s not enough, I turn to public libraries and private sources, which was the case for Edward.

Q. Do you use models or photographs for the people in your painting? How about the rabbit—did you see Kate DiCamillo’s big rabbit or invent your own?

A. Usually I create sketches and work off of them to create the final image. Sometimes I take inspiration from people and faces in old photographs or pictures of a specific time period in order to come up with an idea of what a certain character might look like. Although Kate sent me photos of her rabbit, I still had to sculpt my own model of Edward’s head, since we see the rabbit from many angles throughout the book.

Q. Did you consider yourself an artist as a child? What kind of art training did you have?

A. Since the time I can remember myself, I was sculpting. When I was ten, with advice from my parents, I went to the Children’s Art School. I studied there for five years. It was a basic art education—introduction to the world of art materials, history of art, basics of various crafts. Then I decided to continue my art education in the Art College of Kazan for four years. It was a time of the most intensive classic art training. After that I attended the State Art Institute in Moscow for five years. It was an important step for me, allowing me to understand and find myself as an artist.

Q. Each painting adds a rich and emotionally affecting dimension to Kate’s text. How did you find the heart of each of the characters? What did you want your illustrations to add to the story?

A. It’s not easy to explain how I found the heart of each character. Everything is in the text, as in “But first you must open your heart.” I couldn’t say it better.