Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

First published in 1902
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

You know the story...his mother warns him about going to Mr. McGregor's garden, but Peter can't resist the temptation. To the garden he goes to feast on lettuce and radishes. He should have listened to his mother! Peter does meet up with Mr. McGregor and they lead each other on a merry chase.

The Story behind the Tale:
The Tale of Peter Rabbit grew out of a picture letter Beatrix Potter sent to Noel, the son of her former governess, on September 4, 1893. A few years later, Miss Potter decided the letter might make a good book. After being rejected by several publishers, she had Peter Rabbit printed privately. The first edition came out in December 1901. The second edition came out in February 1902. F. Warne and Co. finally agreed to publish Peter Rabbit. Their edition came out in October 1902. This marks the first of many successful collaborations between Potter and Warne.

My thoughts: Peter Rabbit is such a familiar tale. I can almost repeat it from memory. On re-reading the tale, I was surprised by the humor in it (e.g., the water can Peter hides in). The story reads aloud very well. The size of the book (5.5 x 4.25 inches) and the illustrations make it problematic for story time. The size makes it more conducive to one-on-one lap time. If any of my fellow children's librarian would like to chime in, I wold love to hear how you share Beatrix Potter's books during story time.

For this Beatrix Potter Reading Project, I am consulting two resources for additional information about Beatrix Potter and her books. The resources are Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007) and A History of the Writings of Beatrix Potter by Leslie Linder (London: F. Warne & Co., 1971).

Lear relates how interested Beatrix Potter was in other enterprises. For The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Potter developed a Peter Rabbit Doll, nursery wallpaper, and a Peter Rabbit Board game. Merchandise inspire by Beatrix Potter's tales is still popular today. Only a few months ago, I crocheted a baby afghan in a Peter Rabbit color scheme for a friend.

Lear describes The Tale of Peter Rabbit: "Although the story was always of central importance, there is in Peter Rabbit a perfect marriage of word and image. The precision of her drawings of plants and animals, gardens and woods, embellishes her text and carries the story forward to the next page with a flawless continuity of time and place, fantasy and reality" (154). I couldn't agree more.

Here's something new I discovered thanks to Linder's book: In addition to her picture letters, Beatrix Potter also wrote miniature letters to children. The ones for Peter Rabbit are as follows: Peter Rabbit to Mrs. McGregor, Mrs. McGregor to Peter Rabbit, Peter Rabbit to Benjamin Bunny, and Peter Rabbit to Drew.

Favorite Illustrations: Peter munching on carrots in Mr. M's garden, the cat watching the goldfish

Favorite words: exert, fortnight

-Mr. McGregor's garden obstacle course
-"Peter, Peter, where's the gate?" game (make the gate out of craft sticks, similar to Doggy and the Bone)
-"Where's Peter?" flower pot memory game (hide numerous things including a small rabbit under little clay flower pots. Each child gets a guess. Continues until someone finds Peter.)
-Taste testing: chamomile tea, blackberries, currant buns
-A compilation of Peter Rabbit Activities in PUBYAC's archives
-Make your own Peter Rabbit puppet show, color Peter Rabbit, and play games at the official Peter Rabbit website

I hope you've enjoyed this first post of my Beatrix Potter Reading Project. I'll be exploring The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin next week.

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