Stitches and Stuffing
Little Hare, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Wherever Adeline went, so did Bunnybear. They had been together since forever, never apart. He was soft and cuddly, his ears and legs wibbling and wobbling and he flipped and flopped along. He even had his own seat at the table for morning milk and biscuits with Nanna. Bunnybears was her best friend and she didn’t feel right without him. Until one day, Bunnybear accidentally got left at the beach… Caught in a tug-of-war between a curious seagull and Adeline’s puppy, poor Bunnybear was destroyed and Adeline was distraught. That night there was a Bunnybear-shaped empty space in her bed and she felt very alone.
Next day Nanna sat in her knitting chair and made a new Bunnybear for Adeline. But this one wasn’t the same. It was too stiff and straight and no matter how Adeline squished and squashed him, he felt like a stranger. And so he sat on the shelf, hard and still like a statue. But then, one day Nanna had to go away for a while and with no milk and biscuits for morning tea, and no sitting in the knitting chair with her, the days became long and quiet. And then Adeline remembered…
This is a soft and gentle story, illustrated with the soft and gentle palette and the soft and gentle lines of watercolours, that will remind all readers, young and not-so of their favourite take-along-everywhere toy of their childhood. Everyone has a Bunnybear in their story, that one toy that we felt lost without regardless of whether it was shabby or pristine. In fact, shabby was better because it showed how loved it was but despite that, there is always room for change and sometimes when it is thrust upon us we need to embrace it. This softness is not just in the storyline but also in the rhythm of the story – long sentences that spread out over vignettes and pages as life continues on its merry way but changing to shorter, more abrupt statements when the worst happens and then gradually getting longer and more rhythmic as life takes on a new pattern. The whole wraps around the child like a hug, reassuring them that things will work out even if they are different.
Sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth. And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally. Photos of Prince George starting school recently showed him looking a bit bewildered and unsure, and even though his grandfather Prince Charles thought the experience “character-building” we have to remember we can still count in months the time these little ones have been in the world and they need and deserve all the support they can get. The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!