While children’s literature is replete with Beatrix Potter’s critters and their accompanying stories, there are far fewer biographical books on the beloved author, let alone tales about her that reflect her style of writing. Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake have joined forces to create a one-of-a-kind children’s book that mirrors the curious world of the inimitable Beatrix Potter.
Growing up in Victorian London, Potter and her younger brother, Bertram, had the whole third floor of their childhood home to themselves. Known as the playroom, it not only served as a habitat for Potter’s pet collection but also as a science laboratory and an art studio where she trained, drew and painted her motley menagerie. “But the sad truth is that although Beatrix loved animals, she did not always have the best of luck with them,” Hopkinson writes. Nonetheless, Potter persevered in her experiments. She begged her neighbor to let her borrow the prize guinea pig Queen Elizabeth for her next art project. The result is both bittersweet and eye opening.
Emulating Potter’s unique “picture letter” storytelling, Hopkinson combines her whimsical narrative with Voake’s quaint pen–and-watercolor illustrations to produce a story that was inspired by entries in the journal Potter kept from 1881 to 1897. Including an author’s note with additional information on Potter as well as resources for further research, Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig is a delightful read and wonderful addition to the Potter collection, just in time for the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth.