Once I Was Loved tells the story of Tock, the rabbit who has gotten stuck in the charity box with all the other unloved toys. But it wasn’t always this way. Once, Tock was loved by Sam, a little girl whose father went to fight in the Second World War. Tock kept Sam company while she waited for her dad and read his letters and baked for him, but the day came when Sam had to give Tock away to somebody else who needed a friend. And so Tock met Flynn. And after Flynn came Max, and Toby, and Pip…
This is a heartfelt, Velveteen Rabbit-esque picture book, celebrating the bond of a child and toy, a bond which can be carried all the way into old age.
One of the best features of this book is the way that Tock the rabbit’s story is incorporated into twentieth-century history. He makes it through the Second World War, through the age of the first moon landing, through the flower-loving and hippy seventies, and finally experiences the age of the internet and the cellphone. In this sense, it subtly gives children an insight into what life was like in different decades.
The illustrations are simple, with a soft colour palette, reinforcing the warm and gentle nature of the story. The flowing narrative is complemented by the pictures’ homely and loving atmosphere. A great book for an adult to share with a young child, perhaps accompanied by memories of their own favourite childhood toy, or for early readers to have a go at themselves.
Reviewer: Susannah Whaley
EK Books, $24.99