Beatrix Potter has surprised us from the grave with a 150th birthday gift
An unseen story by Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, is going to be released in September, giving a new generation access to her magical stories.
The works of Beatrix Potter are favourites among multiple generations of children. Born in 1866, Potter had a successful career writing and illustrating gorgeous children's books such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck. By the time of her death she had written 33 books.
The books all give character to the natural world, particularly the animals within it. Her intricate drawings of creatures showed them with human garments — hats and shirts and shoes — and she had them speak in English. Here, they were lively with personalities and opinions. She made it so easy to be fond of them.
It was also plain in Potter's works how humans can be the cause of fear in the animal world. Peter Rabbit almost died after crossing a farmer with a rifle. Potter gave children a way to see our role in the natural world which was easy to understand.
Potter herself loved nature and was a renowned conservationist. The latter part of her life and a good deal of her finances were devoted to preserving the splendour of England's Lake District. She amassed a large amount of crucial land, which she bequeathed to the National Trust after her death.
While her work was published at the start of the twentieth century her dedication to the natural environment, mixed with her creative wonderment, is as relevant today as it ever was. In modern times it's easy to feel dislocated from the natural world. Moreover human exploitation of the natural world is becoming a pressing issue with the looming threat of climate change and other environmental problems.
How lucky we are, then, that a missing manuscript, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots has come to light. The manuscript had been lost for over a century before it was rediscovered by publisher, Jo Hanks. The publisher has selected children's book illustrator, Quentin Blake, to produce images for the upcoming release in September. Blake, who is best known for illustrating the work of Roald Dahl, was selected because he "understands the rebelliousness of animal characters and doesn't patronise children, which was one of Potter's bugbears", according to the publisher.
The book will be available for audiences 150 years after Potter's birth and will include favourite characters such as Peter Rabbit, Mr Tod, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Ribby and Tabitha Twitchit.
How exciting to have the chance to reignite memories of Potter's wonderful characters. It may also expose this great author to yet another generation of readers at a time where cultivating a love of nature is a matter of urgency.