The Charmingly Amusing World of Beatrix Potter

This mini collection of the original Beatrix Potter’s tales has been our naptime reading these past weeks. There is quite some text, which makes the stories perfect for naptime: little gosling usually falls asleep before the end. Most often, it is the “fog” book (“The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher”) and sometimes it takes more than one book or more than one reading of the same book. My favourite is “The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck”, but they all have their special something. He identifies the stories by the name of the characters and when he notices we pull down the blinds, he usually picks what he wants to listen to and brings it over to mommy: “read Peter Rabbit” or “read Tom Kitten, mommy”. 

The characters, partly living in their animal way, partly humanised, and their stories are very much relatable still today. The stories depict ordinary moments in their lives with an incredible level of detail, both in text and illustrations, and the natural life descriptions are simply fascinating. The illustrations are incredibly accurate and feel so very real… I love the Jane Austen-like language (not to forget they were written more than a century ago) and clothing, the subtle humour and irony in it, and little gosling enjoys the rhythm and flow of the stories. He’s becoming more and more interested in the illustrations, as well. The flowery phrasing notwithstanding, I find the stories’ very rich vocabulary practical for early learning. I also enjoyed the free audible version of the stories, but little gosling seems to prefer mommy’s voice and interpretation still, especially when I’m attempting voices :))). 

“The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher” talks about a frog going fishing for minnows for dinner with his friends, a lizard (Sir Isaac Newton!!!) and a tortoise. Mr Jeremy loves having his feet wet; he uses a water-lily leaf as boat, a grass stalk and a horse hair for fishing tackle. The detailed description of the preparations and all that happens during the hours that he spends waiting for the fish to catch is simply amazing: from the way in which the frog moves, arranges its fishing tackle or moves its boat, to the encounters with a stickleback and a dangerously hungry big trout. It’s subtly humorous and totally delightful. Of course, Mr Jeremy’s attire has its significance in the story. Had he not been wearing a macintosh, which the hunter trout found disgusting, he would have been eaten. And one of little gosling’s favourite illustrations is that of a water beetle tweaking one of the frogs’ galoshes (one of my new favourite English words :)). He is also fascinated by the frog eating a butterfly sandwich ;). How cool is that?! However, I’ll remember the book as coining “apa-lily”, the Romanian-English word for “waterlily”, in one of our early explorations of the story.   

“The Tale of Peter Rabbit” follows a naughty little rabbit doing the exact opposite of what his mom asks (little gosling notices that with excitement ;)), which is wandering about in the vegetable garden of the man who ate Peter’s dad in a pie. Of course, the rabbit gets discovered and goes through such misery to find his way back home. He loses his blue jacket and shoes in the process and they are turned into a scarecrow. Little gosling suffers along Peter in his fright and desperation and has a few favourite illustrations: Peter hiding inside a water can (he loves watering the plants and generally, playing with water; he now goes around the house with a small green water can asking to do all kinds of things with it); a white cat looking at goldfish, occasionally twitching its tail; Mrs. Rabbit serving exhausted Peter chamomile tea (he loves making tea) or the moment when Peter finally spots the gate to get out of the garden (that’s a moment of surprised happiness every time :)))). 

“The Tale of Tom Kitten” follows three kittens who, as kids have it, can’t sit still and get dirty and mess their nice attire, especially put out by their mom for tea with her friends. Three ducks put on the clothes, but also lose them the moment they get into the water. Tom Kitten’s little face when dressed by her mom in a tiny, tight suit is absolutely precious! The ducks and the mom are a delight; such vanity and silliness are quite amusing. And little gosling’s favourite part… well, it’s about kittens :))) and the duck walk, “pit pat waddle pat”. 

“The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck” is my favourite among the four. I love reading it. I find the idea of a duck so silly as to trust a fox (however well-dressed, civil and handsome) to house her nest away from the farm and that of a fox stuffing and cooking a roasted duck with all due spices delightful. The detailed description of Jemima attempting to fly with a flapping shawl and bonnet  and of the fox patiently luring the duck are so masterful. Love, love, love it. Little gosling likes ducks and he likes foxes, so….and he seems intrigued to see them so curiously dressed. 

I’ll happily complete our Beatrix Potter collection, but would also like to try a different book layout. And I am really looking forward to checking out Emma Thompson’s new Peter Rabbit story! 

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