Our book of October is The Tale of Peter Rabbit! It is a British children’s book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter that follows mischievous and disobedient young Peter Rabbit as he is chased about the garden of Mr. McGregor. He escapes and returns home to his mother, who puts him to bed after dosing him with tea. The tale was written for five-year-old Noel Moore, son of Potter’s former governess Annie Carter Moore, in 1893. The story was inspired by a pet rabbit Potter had as a child, which she named Peter Piper.
The story focuses on a family of anthropomorphic rabbits. The widowed mother rabbit keeps her four rabbit children, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter from entering the vegetable garden of a man named Mr. McGregor. Her triplets (Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail) obediently refrain from entering the garden, but Peter enters the garden to snack on some vegetables. Peter ends up eating more than what is good for him and goes looking for parsley to cure his stomach ache. Peter is spotted by Mr. McGregor and loses his jacket and shoes while trying to escape. After returning home, a sick Peter is sent to bed by his mother, and his triplet sisters receive a scrumptuous dinner of milk, bread and blackberries whilst Peter has a supper of chamomile tea.
The book was a success, and multiple reprints were issued in the years immediately following its debut. It has been translated into 36 languages, and with 45 million copies sold it is one of the best-selling books of all time. Since its release the book has generated considerable merchandise for both children and adults, including toys, dishes, foods, clothing, and videos. Potter was one of the first to be responsible for such merchandise when she patented a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and followed it almost immediately with a Peter Rabbit board game.
Potter biographer Linda Lear explains that Potter “had in fact created a new form of animal fable in: one in which anthropomorphic animals behave as real animals with true animal instincts”, and a form of fable with anatomically correct illustrations drawn by a scientifically minded artist. She further states Peter Rabbit’s nature is familiar to rabbit enthusiasts “and endorsed by those who are not … because her portrayal speaks to some universal understanding of rabbity behaviour.” She describes the tale as a “perfect marriage of word and image” and “a triumph of fantasy and fact”.
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