Each year, we strive to change ourselves to be the best we can be. Through the scars, bumps and bruises, we tend to forget the small things that give us feelings of love and safety. “Emma Bean” is a sweet story that brings us back to the innocence of childhood and brings its readers back to a time when something so small can be so big in a child’s heart.
Children’s author Jean Van Leeuwen brings the story of a little cloth bunny to life in her book published by Dial Books for Young Readers. Whether they had a blanket, a stuffed animal or an action figure, every reader can relate to this book. Leeuwen gives Emma Bean, the stuffed bunny, traits that every child gives their loving, inanimate friends. Life with Emma Bean and her human Molly is narrated through the first few years of Emma Bean’s life while personifying the toy to feel and act just as Molly can, similar to how Woody from “Toy Story” and the bond between him and his human Andy are shown.
I was brought back to times when I would share secrets with my stuffed animals and cared deeply about them. It was amusing to see familiar instances that every toddler and child brings their special something through, like bath time, trying new foods and the dreaded doctor’s office visits.
Leeuwen uses pretty simple language in her story, making it easy to follow what is going on.
One criticism I have would be the odd flow of the book as a whole. It is easy to see we are moving through a timeline, but some of the jumps seem very cut-off and almost choppy. After the first 10 pages or so, I was able to get acclimated to the author’s writing style; I wasn’t bothered by it anymore and could enjoy the story.
With only 40 pages, it’s impossible to expect the illustrator of “Emma Bean,” Juan Wijngaard, to capture every image, yet his illustrations were able to show the biggest hardships and most important moments of Emma Bean’s story.
Though the book was published in 1993, the art-style reminds me of Norman Rockwell’s paintings. Maybe it is the cute pinkened nose and rosy cheeks that the human Molly shares with Rockwell’s work, or the detail both Wijngaard and Rockwell put into their subjects’ hands, toes and faces. Either way, Wijngaard’s pictures are nice to look at and make it easy to see Molly’s progression of age through time.
Leeuwen and Wijngaard’s book is an overall good read. I cannot see this being read in a classroom of students, but I can see it in the bedroom of any little girl or boy who has a beloved toy or blanket that gives them a sense of security, love and innocence as Emma Bean has done for her human.
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