One-Minute Book Reviews

January 27, 2007

Kate DiCamillo’s Allegory of Christian Faith and Resurrection

Filed under: Children's Books,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:53 am

Did the crucifixion of a rabbit keep her from winning another Newbery Medal?

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. By Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Candlewick, 200 pp., $18.99. Ages 7 and up.

By Janice Harayda

Edward Tulane spends “40 days and 40 nights” in a wilderness, is nailed to a cross, dies after a shared meal, and is resurrected and reunited with a parent figure. Sound like anybody you’ve heard of?

How about if I added that Edward is a rabbit, a symbol of Easter? And that he is loved by a girl named Maggie, which can be a nickname for Magdalene?

That’s right. Edward Tulane is a symbol of Christ, his story is a Passion narrative, and this novel is an allegory of Christian faith and resurrection.

If you’ve followed the publicity for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, you may have heard denials of all this. So here are a couple of facts:

1) Anyone who has a financial stake in this novel may have to deny its religious motifs, even though the book includes a striking full-page picture of Edward’s crucifixion. DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux, and the award helped to make her books among the most popular in American schools. The Christian imagery in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane may have cost DiCamillo this year’s Newbery Medal, which the American Library Assocation awarded Monday to The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. A blunt acknowledgment that Edward is a Jesus figure might also keep the book off school reading lists.

2) The religious themes in the book do not appear once or twice or in ways that might have been accidental. They appear in the title, the artwork, and throughout the story. DiCamillo is too careful a writer to insert such motifs casually, which would violate the reader’s trust and well-established dramatic principles. At the end of this review are some lines that are identical or closely parallel to lines in the Bible. In DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie, the main character’s father was a preacher.

Children can enjoy The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane without understanding its religious themes just as adults can love Animal Farm without realizing that it is an allegory for Stalinism. But some children will sense that DiCamillo’s book has more than one level of meaning. To deny this could undermine their confidence in their ability to make intelligent, multi-layered judgments about books. All children benefit from learning to grasp a story on more than one level. DiCamillo has given them a chance to do this in a moving and suspenseful novel, beautifully illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Children of any faith can enjoy its story. How unfortunate if the novel were kept out of schools because it might help them appreciate the many layers of meaning that a good book can have.

These are three of many passages in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane that have parallels in the Bible:

DiCamillo’s lines appear below in a Roman font. The parallel lines from the King James Version appear in bold.

Edward begins his journey by leaving “a house on Egypt Street” where he is in bondage to his inability to love. “Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage …” Exodus 13:13

Edward spends “40 days and 40 nights” in a garbage dump surrounded by rotting food. “… he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights …” Matthew 4:2 Also: “I will cause it to rain upon the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.” Genesis 7:4

A shopkeeper tells Edward: “I brought you back from the world of the dead.” “… he rose from the dead.” Acts 10:34

Many names in the book also have religious connotations. They include those of three female characters: Abilene (once a region of the Holy Land), Natalie (which means “birth of the Lord”); and Maggie (often a nickname for Magdalene).

Published: February 2006

Furthermore: See the Feb. 10, 2007, post on this blog for a review of DiCamillo’s “Mercy Watson” series for beginning readers, or younger children than The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Links: www.edwardtulane.com and www.katedicamillo.com

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent literary blog created by Janice Harayda, who has been a book columnist for Glamour, book editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. This site posts a new review of a book for children or teenagers every Saturday. To avoid missing these reviews, please bookmark www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com. Please visit http://www.janiceharayda.com for information about the author’s comic novels.

7 Comments »

  1. […] at One-Minute Book Reviews, Janice Harayda wonders ” Did the crucifixion of a rabbit keep her from winning another Newbery Medal? “  She is talking about Kate DiCamillo’s excellent book, The Miraculous Journey of […]

    Pingback by The Parrot’s Perch » Blog Archive » Is “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” a Christian Allegory? — January 29, 2007 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  2. […] lost on me, and if you’d like to delve deeper into that area I’ll point you over to One Minute Book Reviews where Janice Harayda has an excellent post discussing just […]

    Pingback by The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane — April 17, 2008 @ 12:28 am | Reply

  3. I think that it is a sad statement that a great book, such as Edward Tulane would be downgraded due to Christian allegory. I think that it is obvious that it is present in this book. It is also very hard to believe that it is accidental. However, my point is that this book is wonderful in so many ways that whether or not it is an allegory on Christ’s life is null. I used this at the beginning of this year with my fifth graders. It generated so much genuine discussion that I was blown away. The character development and changes in Ed through all his journeys are a treasure in them selves. Kate also leaves enough “space” in some of the subordinate characters that it opens the way for a lot of inferring and predicting.
    I love this book! The lack of the award is nothing to me.

    Comment by ladrianson — September 25, 2008 @ 11:09 am | Reply

  4. “It is a sad statement” … I agree and would add that it’s sad that any book might be snubbed because of a thoughtfully developed religious allegory. Thanks so much for acknowledging that the allegory even exists. Most reviewers ignored it.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — September 25, 2008 @ 11:52 am | Reply

  5. I don’t see the character of Edward Tulane as an allegory of Christ, because Christ was sinless from the beginning. Instead, I see it as an allegory of Christian growth, from a rather uncaring and unappealing beginning, to a “broken”, yet loving end. In this book, Edward Tulane represents both the main protagonist and the main antagonist, because his struggle is against himself. There is the undercurrent of a higher power in the story as well, which steers Edward on his journey of emotional and spiritual growth.

    The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a complex and multilayered book. I was deeply moved by it.

    Comment by lynnluckoski — January 16, 2009 @ 12:23 pm | Reply

  6. […] wasn’t lost on me, and if you’d like to delve deeper into that area,  Janice Harayda from One Minute Book Review has an excellent post discussing just that. Let’s see… […]

    Pingback by Uyên Nguyên » Blog Archive » Edward Tulane và chúa Jesus? LOL x”D — September 3, 2010 @ 3:03 pm | Reply


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