Bibliography: Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. London, United Kingdom: Warne, 2019. ISBN-13: 9780141377490
Plot Summary: A mother rabbit and her four children live underneath the root of a tree. The mother rabbit tells her children that while she is out, they are allowed to play in the fields or down the lane, but mustn’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden. It was in Mr. McGregor’s garden that their father rabbit had died and became a pie! Three of the rabbits listen to their mother, but Peter Rabbit decides to sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat some of his vegetables. Unfortunately, Mr. McGregor catches him and Peter has to figure out a way to escape!
Critical Analysis: While all of Peter’s problems arise from not listening to his mother in the beginning, this story is not necessarily a fable. The moral is set in a way where it is not outright stated, but can be used to teach children to interpret stories and the messages they convey. There is more concentration on the adventure itself, where Peter tries to escape Mr. McGregor’s clutches. Peter Rabbit runs and loses his clothes, he hides in a filled watering can, and he even has to sneak past a cat by the pond. The illustrations are beautiful, and one can tell how much Beatrix Potter loved the countryside with her loving details to the wild life, which she does all in watercolor. She even names out certain plants and foods associated with English gardens, such as fir trees, radishes, parsley, and blackberries. In a way, Peter Rabbit is in an adventure type of story that is not too different from a Tom and Jerry cartoon, but Peter is not entirely mischievous. There are sweet vulnerable moments where he cries about wanting to go home, making him not a static character, but someone you can have some sympathy with. While the ending is where he happily reunites with his mother, Potter touches wry humor here and there by having Peter going to bed earlier than his siblings due getting sick. Not to mention, the book has Mr. McGregor use Peter’s discarded clothes to make a scarecrow. This book can make children appreciate nature, but also understand consequences to actions the way Peter Rabbit has learned!
Review Excerpt and Awards won:
Has not won any recent awards, but was #19 on School Library Journal’s Top 100 Picture Books and was listed as a book “to grow on” by the American Library Association-Children’s Book Council Joint Committee in April 2003.
Following excerpt is from Publishers Weekly, dated April 22, 2002 by Julia Eccleshare:
“The enduring qualities of the entire The World of Peter Rabbit empire lie in Potter’s original stories and pictures, proving the all-embracing power of a good storyteller with a keen sense of her audience. Beatrix Potter understood this absolutely…Potter continued to write illustrated letters to other children and once wrote to the mother of one, “It is much more satisfactory to address a real child. I often think that was the secret success of Peter Rabbit: it was written to a child, not made to order.'”
Connections: Gather and read the other 22 tales by Beatrix Potter such as The Tale of Tom Kitten and The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Use this book as a lesson to children as to why parents or guardians tell them what not to do and the consequences if they do not listen. Also use this book to discuss gardening and how it works to children.