I recently read THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams to my children. I think that this old classic is a rite of passage book. One cannot (and should not) escape childhood without reading this book or having it read to them.
If you are so unfortunate as to not know this story (and you can get the text online) (so go and read it now), it is about a boy and his stuffed rabbit. It is about how the boy made the rabbit Real with his love.
It's the kind of story you remember always. The other day my sister's son wanted to know how people can go on loving each other in marriage, even after age makes them less beautiful. My sister reminded him of the story of the velveteen rabbit. She told him in marriage you become more beautiful and "real" to each other with time. She said he seemed to really get it.
It's the kind of story you can relate to. My children have a velveteen rabbit of their own: a stuffed brown dog who is Real (and loose in the joints and very shabby). I've had him since I was a child, and now my children sleep with him. (It's important for me to qualify this story: said stuffed dog has been washed--multiple times.)
It's the kind of the story with words that seep into your soul and stay with you forever. Words like...
Real isn't how you are made. It's a thing that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt. It doesn't happen all at once. You become. Once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. Once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.