When Frederick Warne published the Tale of Peter Rabbit back in 1902 he had no idea that Mr Rabbit and his friends would become so popular. Author, Beatrix Potter has since become a household name, there are Beatrix Potter books, Beatrix Potter gifts (see the range here) and there’s even a Beatrix Potter museum to visit!
Despite being written in 1893 Potter’s first book – The Tale of Peter Rabbit is still considered to be one of the best children’s books of all time. This may explain why children and adults alike have found a place in their heart for the colourful characters, are still keen to read the 23 traditional tales in the series and continue to purchase Beatrix Potter gifts for their family and friends.
Potter penned the first book for a five-year-old boy called Noel Moore, the son of Potter’s governess. Initially it wasn’t popular with publishers and Potter received several rejections prior to the book finally making print. Now you can buy the book in over thirty languages and it’s estimated that over forty-five million copies have been sold. So why are Peter Rabbit and his many friends still so popular? In a world where children seem to favour gadgets over toys and screens over books it’s heartening to see that the there’s still room for traditional stories.
The Inspirational Miss Potter
Perhaps the author herself inspires us to keep on reading her work? She was certainly one determined lady and remains a great model for young women everywhere.
Helen Beatrix Potter came into the world on 1866, born to upper-class parents the young Miss Potter spent much of her time being cared for by governesses.
Instead of playing with other girls and boys Beatrix Potter would interact with her many pets, she also developed a love of painting and a keen interest in the flowers and trees that grew around her.
It seems this affinity with nature and animals, along with holidays in the Lake District and Scotland, planted a seed that would grow into the inspiring and imaginative stories that we know and love – tales of sprightly woodland creatures and their exploits.
Potter gave us a whole host of interesting characters from the star of the show Peter Rabbit (a mischievous rabbit who loves getting up to all sorts of shenanigans in Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden) to the accident-prone frog (Mr Jeremy Fisher). We also meet a rather domesticated hedgehog (Mrs Tiggy-Winkle), a very naughty squirrel (Squirrel Nutkin) and the naive Jemima Puddle-Duck who just wants a quiet place to lay her eggs, but instead finds herself on the dinner menu – roast duck anyone?
Beatrix Potter’s stories seem to bridge the gap between young and old, tales are passed on from generation to generation. Grandfathers read to their granddaughters, older sisters read to younger siblings, mothers share stories with their sons. Potter seems to have created a parallel universe where we can all lose ourselves in the (sometimes crazy) world of her woodland creatures and household pets.
As parents we can forget about the turmoil of the real world for a while, distance ourselves from terror attacks and press pause on worrying about the impact of greenhouse gasses and the latest economic crisis. Children can put down their homework books for a moment, and step away from their controls (Call of Duty can wait). This is important, this is about spending time together and getting lost in an imaginary world of good deeds and silliness. It’s comforting to know that simple things can still make us smile. That kids can still be kids, even if it’s just for a short while.
Are We All Looking to Exit the Digital World? (Just for a While)
Maybe we should all resolve to take a break from being connected 24-7 to our mobiles, and vow to no longer only speaking to our kids via text or social media.
Maybe we can reconnect in Flopsy Bunny’s Burrow or join together to rescue Timmy Tiptoes from the dead tree. Potter’s books give us a welcome glimpse into a charmed and eccentric setting, she uses familiar animals to bring buoyancy and fun to her tales. Perhaps children, like adults, are looking for a little escape route now and again too, maybe for a while we can all exit this mad, bad world and go somewhere just a little bit nicer. Wait for us Peter Rabbit, we’re all coming to the vegetable garden to play!