100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

The Mystery of the 71 Year Old Velveteen Rabbit

You know how you can see something, yet not really notice it? That’s what happened when I came upon this book during an end of the year weeding session in my K-2 school library:

In the course of weeding, I’ve come across older books that have quietly stuck around – mostly because they’re classics and no one had the heart to take them off the shelves or update the copy, despite being seriously dated. I had seen this one before, but had never looked at it closely. I opened the front cover to see if I could find when it was added to the library. I was surprised with what I saw:

While weeding I’ve seen books in our collection from the 80s and 70s – but early 40s? This was a first. That’s 71 years old. FYI, here’s what was happening in the world in 1942:

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President.
  • Muhammad Ali was born.
  • The United States was involved in World War II.
  • The film Casablanca premiered.
  • The fifth Caldecott Medal was awarded to Make Way for Ducklings.

The date made me wonder when The Velveteen Rabbit was published, and if we had a truly rare book on our hands. A quick search revealed that the first edition came out in 1922. I knew our copy was added to the library in 1942, but could the book be older? Unfortunately, the cryptic copyright page didn’t offer too many clues:

All I had to go on was the “CL” (which in Roman numerals equals 150) above the title. I went to used and rare bookseller AbeBooks to see what I could find. There I stumbled upon a listing for a first edition:

That perked my ears up a bit. While I knew our copy was likely far from a first edition, jacketless, and full of library markings, I felt profits from its sale could still (conservative scenario) pay for a second story and/or book carwash to be added to the library.

(video via Book Patrol)

I included the “CL” in my search and came back down to earth:

While I know ours was printed, at the latest, in the early 40s (while this listing is for a copy published in the 50s), this is the only mention of the “CL” I could find, so I’m assuming this is somewhere in the ballpark of our copy. Mystery (probably) solved.

I turned to the back of the book and pulled out the date due card:

Scanning the names, it made me wonder if these folks are still around, and where they might be. Maybe one of them remembers visiting their school library and picking a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit off the shelf, over half a century ago.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. This book always makes me think of my late father-in-law, who was born in 1931.

  2. Jimmy Gulch went on to become a mid-level gang enforcer.

  3. Doggone it, Nathan Hale. You completely stole my Jimmy Gulch line. I like that our minds went to the same place, though.

  4. I just found a copy of TALES FROM GRIMM by Wanda Gag – beautifully old as well, 1936 copyright. Abe Books tells me that the 7th printing was from 1947 (thanks for that link!!), and it was added to our library in 1959, which was when my dad went to this school. Just amazing the history stored in our walls…

  5. That is a remarkable find! I have some Beverly Clearys from the 50s (which I promptly “weeded and appropriated for my own use”) and every year I stumble upon something old and crumbly. Love that old book smell.

    That said, the Velveteen Rabbit was one of my least favourite stories when I was a kid. I found it monumentally depressing and very disturbing at the end, when they burn the rabbit.


  6. Do they have index cards like the one in your picture? I used to love seeing who else had checked the book out. Now its all ‘in the system’ on a computer..

    that’s why I like reading old books bought from a thrift store or library.