Beatrix Potter was an artist and writer whose tales of the small animals she loved have entertained generations of children; here, Hopkinson and Voake offer a story of her childhood.
Beatrix keeps a menagerie of unusual pets on the top floor of her London home. The rabbits are her favorites and can be seen hopping along on a leash when she goes out and about. Most of all, she loves drawing and painting the animals and keeping a journal of her adventures with them. Although she cares for all the creatures as best she can, there are, alas, a great many failures. Queen Elizabeth, a guinea pig borrowed as an artist’s model, when left unattended, eats several items not meant for consumption and comes to an unfortunate end. Beatrix tries to make amends by presenting a memorial painting of the departed pet to its owner. Drawing on her subject’s journals, Hopkinson addresses the “Dear Reader” directly and employs language in keeping with syntax and style found in Potter’s works. Voake’s softly drawn watercolors splash through the pages, exuberantly detailing all the events. Facsimile pages with black line sketches, ostensibly from Beatrix’s journal, tell the fates of some of her pets. The author also informs readers of Beatrix’s later fame, with the caveat that it would be wise to keep gifts from artists, “Because you just never know.” A postscript in a chatty and accessible tone provides much information and copious illustrative material.
The use of invented dialogue makes this problematic as straight biography, but it is nevertheless a charming, delightful homage. (author’s note, photographs, notes) (Picture book. 4-9)