Check out the Google logo today, and you’ll find it adorned with lovely rabbits. The occasion: English children’s book writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter was born on this date in 1866.
Potter was truly a woman ahead of her time, and in the Victorian era, that wasn’t exactly a cinch to pull off. Along with writing and illustrating books, she was a mycologist (one who studies fungi), farmer and conservationist. She courted a man of her own choosing, her publisher Norman Warne, despite her parents’ objections, but he died before they could marry. She eventually became financially independent because of the success of her books and married in her 40s to her solicitor, again over her parents’ protests.
She published 23 books before her death in 1943. Her most famous is “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”; many of her stories focus on animals.
In February, I found charming copies of “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny” and “The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck” at the huge Friends of the Metropolitan Library System Booksale. When I read them to my younger son, I was amazed; I had forgotten how different her writing is than modern-day children’s books.
Her pastel watercolor illustrations and quaint country stories about rabbits and ducks are not at all sickly sweet and sappy. Her prose will challenge youngters rather than indulge their ADD tendencies. At 19 months, Gabe the Babe rarely gets through the whole story, but he’ll get there and he’ll be all the better for it.
If you get the chance, take a minute to read one of Potter’s books – borrow someone’s kid if you have to – and you’ll see why her animal tales have endured.