The Picture Book Buzz

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit - Perfect Picture Book Friday #

It's hard to believe that just eight months ago, I travelled to London. It seems like a lifetime ago. A big fan of Beatrix Potter, I wandered around Kensington, Kew Gardens, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. In addition, of course, to the Dr. Who Museum, a few castles, and King's Cross Station.

I was so excited when the trip included time in the Lake District, visiting Beatrix Potter's houses and spending time learning about the Herwick sheep that were special to her and the local art dry stonewalling. Our tour guide even indulged me and dropped me off at the Armitt Museum for an afternoon.

So, I was really excited to read and experience Linda Marshall and Ilaria Urbinati's book about Beatrix Potter's efforts to do "something that mattered"; to save the countryside from development and the Herwick sheep from extinction.

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Author: Linda Elovitz Marshall

Illustrator: Ilaria Urbinati

Publisher: little bee books (2020)

Ages: 4-8

Nonfiction

Themes:

Land and animal preservation, biography, and following your heart.

Synopsis:

Through she's universally known as the creator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter did so much more. This is the true story about how she helped save the English countryside! Growing up in London, Beatrix Potter felt the restraints of Victorian times. Girls didn't go to school and weren't expected to work. But she longed to do something important, something that truly mattered. As Beatrix spent her summers in the country and found inspiration in nature, it was through this passion that her creativity flourished. There, she crafted The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She would eventually move to the countryside full-time, but developers sought to change the land. To save it, Beatrix used the money from the success of her books and bought acres and acres of land and farms to prevent the development of the countryside that both she and Peter Rabbit so cherished. Because of her efforts, it's been preserved just as she left it. This beautiful picture book shines a light on Beatrix Potter's lesser-known history and her desire to do something for the greater good.

Opening Lines:

On the third floor of a London house,

a young girl sketched pictures of her pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer.

She also drew frogs, salamanders, turtles, and mice she had rescues from traps.

Her name was Beatrix Potter,

and she loved nature and the countryside.

But she lived in the city.

What I Loved About the book:

This book is a treat from the very beginning. Under the dust cover image of a young Beatrix Potter sketching beneath a tree, we find an older Beatrix surveying the countryside. I love how the tree and Beatrix showing the passage of time and the fulfillment of a dream.

Text © Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Image © Ilaria Urbinati, 2020.

The sepia toned end pages display a fun collection of some of Beatrix Potter's character sketches, including Jemima Puddle Duck. And Ilaria Urbinati's beautiful, warm pen and watercolor illustrations complement both the text and numerous examples of Beatrix's drawings.

Text © Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Image © Ilaria Urbinati, 2020.

Focusing on Beatrix's love of nature and the countryside, and her drive "to do something important, something that mattered," Linda explores how Beatrix bucked society's conventions - by earning money drawing illustrations for greeting cards, studying mushrooms and writing a scientific paper, and self-publishing her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Text © Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Image © Ilaria Urbinati, 2020.

Though Beatrix's twenty-three books and related merchandise were beloved all over the world, and she had created something that mattered, Beatrix bucked tradition once again and bought a farm by herself. She became a sheep herder and an advocate for the protection of the local, endangered Herdwick sheep. When developers threatened to overtake the countryside, Beatrix bought more land - farms and forests. Ultimately she dedicated 4,000 acres to the National Trust that can never be developed. This is a touching and beautiful ode to a beloved author/illustrator, highlighting less familiar parts of her life, and endearing her to a new generation of readers. A perfect addition to any biography collection.

Resources:

- do a sketch of your pet, birds or animals in your yard, or the scenery from your house.

- listen to The Tale of Peter Rabbit read aloud (https://www.rif.org/literacy-central/material/tale-peter-rabbit-read-aloud-rose-byrne).

- draw a picture or write about what you would save if you had the chance.

- create your own sheep (https://kidscraftroom.com/rocking-paper-plate-sheep-craft/)

- read Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor, The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed A City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins, and Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau, Deborah Hopkinson. How did these women and kids "do something important, something that mattered?"

If you missed the interview of Linda Marshall on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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