Review of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit"

Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Frederick Warne & Co. 1902, 1987, 1996. ISBN: 1-57719-157-9

Peter Rabbit is one of four bunnies belonging to their mother, Mrs. Rabbit, who instructs them to not go into Mr. McGregor’s garden because “your Father had an accident there, he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor. Not run along, and don’t get into mischief, I’m going out.” Of course while Mrs. Rabbit is not watching the bunnies, Peter, who was not a good little bunny like his siblings, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail, ran to Mr. McGregor’s garden. Peter is chased by the farmer – losing his bunny clothes that ended up being used as a tiny scarecrow by Mr. McGregor. He gets wet from jumping into a watering can, smartly decides to avoid a cat, and then runs himself out so that he is tired and frightened. He finally makes it back home. There his mother gives him only tea while the other bunnies have bread, milk and blackberries for supper.

The best part of this book is the pictures. They are so delicate and have just the right amount of detail. They are what grab your attention the most. However, the story is quite basic (though I question Mrs. Rabbit’s mothering skills) and children can easily get into a story that has a believable character like Peter. A rabbit would go into a garden and get chased. The pictures give you just enough vivid imagery to go along with the choice wording (“Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail” – such good rabbit names!) You get the feeling of Peter running for his life, afraid he will be put into a pie if he is caught.

Interestingly enough, Booklist (November 01, 1987) states that, “Undoubtedly one of the most famous books for children, this enduring classic has been reprinted more than 100 times in the 80-plus years since its debut, resulting in a loss of much of the artist’s careful brushwork, color, and detail. To rectify this, the original illustrations have been re-photographed, giving children and adults a beautiful new edition to love and appreciate. All 23 of Potter’s treasured offerings have had similar transformations, and librarians will want to consider replacing their old copies.” I can understand wanting a modern, more vivid book to offer their patrons. Since it is such a well loved book, there are so many editions out there that keeping something as highly popular makes sense for libraries.

Being a classic, well-loved book, I would like to see more classic books that go along with Peter Rabbit’s tales. Even Frog and Toad and The Pokey Little Puppy would be appropriate in giving young readers the good, basic, classic children’s literature. I personally like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie too. It’s another way to show the supposed animal-human relationship that The Tale of Peter Rabbit has.

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