01 December 2008

Real, Soft Fur to Pat

Here's a sample of advertising copy from Simon & Schuster, circa 1940:

Oliver Wiswell is a wonderful book--but it won't squeak if you press it, the way Pat the Bunny will. For Whom the Bell Tolls is magnificent--but it hasn't any bunny in it--not with real, soft fur to pat, anyway.”

At the time, Dorothy Kunhardt's tactile book for tots was new on the shelves, costing only a dollar. Soon World War 2 forced Kunhardt and her publisher to re-engineer some pages, removing the rubber squeaker and then the metal mirror. Only the latter went back into subsequent printings.

I learned this history from the Pat the Bunny exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art this past weekend. The exhibit runs through next weekend only.

Curiously enough, Sparknotes has this to say about symbolism in For Whom the Bell Tolls:

Animal imagery pervades For Whom the Bell Tolls, but rabbits and hares appear most frequently. Robert Jordan's nickname for Maria is “Rabbit.” When Robert Jordan first meets Rafael, the gypsy is making traps for rabbits. Later, Rafael, distracted by trapping a pair of hares that he has caught mating in the snow, leaves his post. The guerrilla fighters have a somber meal of rabbit stew after the Fascists slaughter El Sordo's men. And shortly before his death, El Sordo invokes the image of a skinned rabbit when thinking about how vulnerable before enemy planes he feels on his hilltop.
Not pattable, to be sure. But I still feel we should check the early printings of Oliver Wiswell to confirm that they really don't squeak.

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