Well-worn rabbit reappears in four new version; The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, illustrated by Ilse Plume. Boston: David R. Godine. 31 pp. $7.95.; The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, illustrated by Tien. New York: Simon & Schuster. Pages unnumbered. $6.95.; The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, illustrated by Allen Atkinson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 40 pp. $9.95.; The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, illustrated by Michael Hague. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 33 pp. $11.50.
This classic nursery-room tale, now out of copyright in this country, is sudenly available in four new color editions. Although the story has some inconsistencies, decades of readers have enjoyed its message of the animating power of love.
A compact version published by David R. Godine, Boston, has a durable, flexible cover that's easy for children to handle. Illustrator Ilse Plume creates a Velveteen Rabbit that appears to be a living creature from the beginning, but the scenes in general lack vivacity.
Tien's rabbit in the Simon & Schuster version is plump and toylike and carries the story visually, since the little boy never appears. The vignettes, which are done in soft, pleasing colors and set off with white space, have a pleasant, lighthearted effect.
Allen Atkinson in the Alfred A. Knopf edition takes a more somber approach in his depiction of the tale. Unfortunately, details are sometimes lost in dark tones and shadows, which may be the result of the printing process. A fanciful touch, however, is a winsome fairy clothed with gossamer finery in delicate hues.
Michael Hague's illustrations in the Holt, Rinehart & Winston edition are the most sensitive of the quartet. The little boy is portrayed with warmth, and the luminous night scene depicting the bunny in the world of real rabbits is particularly enchanting. Hague's oversize Veleveteen Rabbit takes on a charming personality of his own and truly fits the nursemaid Nana's description: "I declare if that old bunny hasn't got quite a knowing expression."