One of the weirdest but most wonderful authors of children’s stories was Beatrix Potter. We have been slowly collecting the entire 23 book set with every chance to give birthday or Christmas presents, and reading all the stories as we find them at the library. The most recent book we read is “The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes.” This apparently was her book written for her American audience, featuring the gray squirrel, the chipmunk, and the black bear, though the scenery is still taken from her native English countryside. It also features birds whose natural songs are: “Whose-bin-diggin-up-my-nuts” and “A-little-bit-o-bread-and-no-cheese.” It makes me wonder what the birds around St. Paul are really saying.
|Photo of Potter’s Hill Top Farm by Chris Brown|
All of Potter’s books are full of insights about animals, nature, and relationships, which she expresses in the personified animals of her stories. Accompanying her witty texts are beautiful watercolors. (I would love to share some here, but according to Wikipedia the images are not in the public domain in the UK or Europe and I don’t want to violate any copyright laws since I don’t really know anything about them.)
A great feature of her stories is that she often includes rhymes in the dialogue, which expand on the nursery rhymes that I have already been reading to my children. She even has two books of her own rhymes “Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes” and “Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes.”
She gives great life lessons in her stories: We learn in “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” the negative affects of gluttony and disobeying parents. In “The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck” to not talk to predatory-like strangers even if they have sandy whiskers and that once again foxes are always bad. Another great tale is that of Ginger and Pickles in which we learn that giving credit, while it sells a lot of goods, does not always bode well for paying one’s own bills. The tale about a tail, “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin” teaches us to not pester our benefactors. From capitalism to parents to strangers, Potter presented helpful advice on living in the world.
The point is that Potter wrote some pretty great stories that kids and parents find entertaining and wonderful with every reading of the story. This I think is the essential element of good children’s stories. I will say it again and again; if it is going to be great for the child it has to be great for the parent. And that is why Beatrix Potter is awesome. Go and read her to your kid now. 🙂