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Rev. Joey N. Welsh: Small book, brief life, big meaning

This was on three years ago.- Robert H. Stone
Another Angle.Small book, brief life, big meaning was first published 22 May 2005 in the Hart County News-Herald.
To see other articles by this author, enter "Rev. Joey N. Welsh," or "Another Angle," in the searchbox. The next earlier Another Angle: What would Mary Magdalene think about what we've done with Easter?

By The Rev. Joey N. Welsh

Small book, brief life, big meaning

When my boys were young I read a lot of books to them. Most of them I don't even remember. One book for small children does stand out in my memory, though. I remember it not because I read it to my oldest son, I recall it because it was the first book he read to me from cover to cover in those early days when he was just becoming fascinated with his ability to decipher the printed word. The book was Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown.

Published in 1942 and reprinted many times, the story tells in word and picture about a little bunny who says he wants to run away from home. To make his journey successful he imagines transforming himself into any number of objects or creatures, but his mother always matches his vision by telling how she will transform herself into anything necessary to stay right with him. "For you are my little bunny," she says. It is a wonderful and consoling story of the persistence of parental love. And, perhaps it can be seen as much more than that.

Margaret Wise Brown also wrote Goodnight Moon (my choice for the best ever bedtime story), The Little Island (a Caldecott Medal winner) and about 100 other books for children. Tuesday, May 24, marks 100 years since Brown was born, in 1910 in Brooklyn, New York. Her talent burned brightly but for too short a time. She died at just 42 years of age following complications from minor surgery. Her life, her works, and her insights are worth remembering.

The 1999 Pulitzer Prize for drama went to Margaret Edson for Wit, a play about a professor of 17th century English poetry and expert on John Donne who struggles with cancer. Edson is a teacher who loves nurturing kindergartners, and she kept teaching in Atlanta even after she became successful as a playwright. Edson found a striking way to work Margaret Wise Brown's book into her play.

The play shows how toward the end of her struggle, the professor, Vivian Bearing receives a visit in her hospital room as her life is ebbing away. The visitor, Dr. Ashford, has been Vivian's teaching and literary mentor. Dr. Ashford offers to recite some classical literature to Vivian, but the dying woman finds no more comfort in English literature and declines the offer. Dr. Ashford then draws close and reads to Vivan a book she has just bought for her grandchild -- Runaway Bunny.

As Ashford reads about the mother who won't let her little bunny get away from her, the professor comments on the book, calling it "a little allegory of the soul." Suddenly, a sweet little children's book becomes for us a description of God's willingness to stay intently, lovingly, and gracefully with us no matter what, even when we become restless and want to stray. This is a big message for such a delicate book, but Runaway Bunny is quite sturdy enough to bear another such layer of interpretation.

During this week ahead say a word of thanks for Margaret Wise Brown and for all of the authors who practice the fragile art of writing for children. Visit the children's section at your local library. Pick a book or two to read to a child who is special to you, then do it. Not only will you be doing something wonderful for a child, but you might, like Dr. Ashford in the play Wit, receive an insight for yourself that is more valuable to you than anything you are giving to the child. Happy reading!


This story was posted on 2010-05-23 08:20:43
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