It’s been about nine months since the exciting news emerged about the discovery of one final tale from Beatrix Potter and at long last, with the peculiar timing of a much-anticipated birth, this baby’s on the shelves for you to admire!
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, written by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Quentin Blake published in 2016 by Frederick Warne
And oh, it is worth the having!
All that we adore in Potter’s tales — her storytelling mastery; grubby, flawed characters; the rapscallions; the saucy, ill-advised adventurers; the wry observations of the narrator; the wit and sophistication. And the language! It’s all here, in unabashed glory.
Additionally, for those of you well-acquainted with all the tiny tales, you’ll be delighted to run into quite a few old friends here including Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and her laundry…
Ribby and Tabitha with their reputations for prudence, a stouter, yet still audacious Peter Rabbit…
I’ll let you discover the others.
The story itself features Kitty, a feline with a dual personality. At home, she calls herself Miss Catherine St. Quintin:
But when she dons “a gentleman’s Norfolk jacket and little fur-lined boots,” Kitty’s friends have a few other monikers for her.
It is in this guise that Kitty lands herself in a heap of Potter-esque trouble. As you might expect from Beatrix, things do not come to an end without considerable fur flying and other forms of injury. This is all quite deserved, according to our narrator, on account of the bad behavior of Kitty and several colleagues.
Potter left her manuscript without illustrating it, giving Quentin Blake the task of filling in for Beatrix. I’m thankful for an illustrator with the supreme clout and vision of Blake, who did not attempt to replicate Potter’s style but employed his own, much more frenetic brushstrokes and eccentricity, while retaining enough of Potter’s style in composition, page-layout and image-size that the book still fits tickety-boo in the Potter canon.
An audio version of the story is included with the book. The narrator is none other than Helen Mirren. First thing I did on collecting my copy was to pop the CD in the player and let myself absorb the story through Mirren’s masterful voices. Superb.
This is a deadringer for a Christmas gift for lots of folks, young and old. Thank you Beatrix, Quentin, and all those who have had a part in bringing this treasure to life.
Meanwhile, it’s still the year we’re celebrating Potter’s 150th birthday. She was born on July 28, 1866. To that end, Frederick Warne has collaborated with 32 outstanding children’s book author-illustrators to bring us an utterly delectable collection of Potter tales, original art, and musings:
A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by more than 30 of today’s favorite children’s book illustrators published by Frederick Warne, 2016
Gahhhhh! This book is a wonder!
Take nine of Potter’s tales – Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, The Tailor of Gloucester, Two Bad Mice, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, the Pie and the Patty-Pan, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and Mr. Tod.
Add brief introductions about the inspiration and making of the original books, and excerpts of the stories with Potter’s illustrations.
Pour in the imaginations and observations of some of today’s most talented author-illustrators – Melissa Sweet, Lauren Castillo, Wendell Minor, Brian Pinkney…I can’t list them all. It’s a powerful list!
These folks were asked to reflect on what Potter has meant to them, and choose an episode from one of these stories to illustrate with their own flair, style, vision.
What you get is a stunning collection of art and a tender, thoughtful compilation of ideas from folks whose business it is to soak in story and create story. I love every page. It’s a tribute to Beatrix Potter, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a window into these artists’ thoughts about drawing, mischief, human frailty, imagination, the out-of-doors, comfort, fear, and how Potter’s tiny tales speak to all of that.
Hear Tony Diterlizzi’s delightful ramblings about his encounter with Jeremy Fisher at the “ramshackle bait and tackle shop” he frequents:
Or come nose-to-nose with Jen Corace’s terribly-vexed Hunca Munca, as Jen describes her childhood dollhouses and the deep, emotional investment and disappointments we, too, experience that makes us empathize with that perturbed, wee mouse.
Potter was a brilliant artist, with her boots firmly planted in the muck of the Lake District, and we love her for that. If you’re a Potter fan, or an artist, ages 12 through adult, do yourself a favor and check this collection out.
It hits the shelves here in the U.S. on November 1st.