Alongside some of Beatrix Potter’s own work, 32 contemporary author/illustrators each offer a testimonial and a piece of original art in homage to this grande dame of children’s books.
An introduction about Potter extols her “fierce independence and unwavering curiosity” during a time when “women of wealth were expected to follow rigid societal structures.” It mentions her love of art and nature, and it lists considerable accomplishments. The publishers hope that the book will be “a source of inspiration for future generations of authors and illustrators.” That might have worked had the contributors simply offered their art; each of these top-notch artists has produced an illustration well worth the colored ink. However, the testimonials, although not identical, soon feel that way, however heartfelt. Reading the text feels like attending a retirement party and listening to 32 glowing speeches, some of which have references that would be meaningful only to older readers. (Rosemary Wells compares Potter to pianist Glenn Gould; Matthew Forsythe compares Jemima Puddle-Duck to Emma Bovary.) Original moments—often quite fascinating—tend to be lost in the repetitious praise. Moreover, it seems a cruel tease to new initiates to offer only introductory, illustrated pages of nine of Potter’s original tales.
Enjoyable perusing; best as an adult coffee-table book. (Nonfiction. 9-16)