"THE FURTHER TALE OF PETER RABBIT," by Emma Thompson and illustrated by Eleanor Taylor, Frederick Warne & Co., $19.99 (f) (ages 5-6)
Most animals don't live to be 110. But rabbits might; at least Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit has.
Commemorating the 110 years of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" in print, Emma Thompson, an actress and screenwriter, has written a new Peter Rabbit adventure, "The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit."
Based on the original Beatrix Potter story, Peter is no less inquisitive than he was more than a century ago. Being in low spirits and seeking "a change of scene," he sneaks into Farmer McGregor's garden hunting fresh lettuce. Faithful to his mischievous nature, Peter hides in a picnic basket and is whisked away on a journey where he meets Scottish cousin, Finlay McBurney, " a huge black rabbit in a kilt," and participates in a contest of skill and brawn.
Peter surely meets the adventure he sought and returns home a little less low-spirited perhaps, but — faithful Peter Rabbit fans will know — none the wiser.
Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" was the first in a series of 24 small books ("just right for small hands") written for a former governess' daughter. The popularity of Peter is seen in a century of reproductions, media versions and myriad adaptations in merchandising such as toys, clothing, dinnerware and games. "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" has been reprinted by Warne & Co. 300 times into more than 35 languages.
Thompson says that Peter himself ("an old childhood acquaintance") sent a package with "some half-eaten radish tops and a letter inviting me to write a new tale. It was an invitation I could no more refuse than I could refuse to breathe."
Thompson's story — much longer than Potter's original and in a large 8½-by-11 book to be released Oct. 11 — brings out the classic trademark of Peter's personality, impish and impulsive with little fear of danger. Scottish icons are incorporated in the telling, such as a bed filled with sheep's wool and heather, plaid kilts and potato scones. One scene describes a Scottish burrow "hung with bunches of bog-cotton."
Eleanor Taylor's watercolor washes nearly replicate Potter's scenery, but not quite. Crisp lines and engaging images (especially in body movements) are a wee bit lacking. Aficionados of Beatrix Potter will probably still prefer the small, cozy-sized originals with slick pages and charming characters that tell the story in carefully chosen prose.
Included with "The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit" is an audio recording of the tale, read by Emma Thompson.
Children's books anniversaries
Hundreds of children's books remain in print for years, a testament to the outstanding quality of text and the innovations in art production. Many are celebrating anniversaries this year. A few have enlightened and entertained grandparents and parents as children but still are treasured by today's young readers. Others, newer, are also becoming classics.
Here are some of the children's books marking anniversaries:
"The Tale of Peter Rabbit," by Beatrix Potter, 110 years
"The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle," by Hugh Lofting, 90 years, Newbery Award winner, 1923
"The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure," by Franklin W. Dixon (pen-name of various authors), 85 years, the first in a series of 58 mysteries
"One Morning in Maine," by Robert McCloskey, 60 years, Caldecott Honor, 1953
"Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White, 60 years, Newbery Honor, 1953
"Time of Wonder," by Robert McCloskey, 55 years, Caldecott Medal, 1958, the first medalist in color
"Clifford the Big Red Dog," by Norman Bridwell, 50 years; "Norman Bridwell's Clifford Collection" is being published in conjunction with this celebration
"The Snowy Day," by Ezra Jack Keats, 50 years, Caldecott Medal, 1963
"A Wrinkle in Time," by Madeleine L'Engle, 50 years, Newbery Medal, 1963
"The Big Honey Hunt," by Stan and Jan Berenstain, 50 years, the first book that launched the Berenstain Bears
"Julie of the Wolves," by Jean Craighead George, 40 years, Newbery Medal, 1973
"Miss Rumphius," by Barbara Cooney, 30 years, which shared the National Book Award for picture book with William Steig
"Where's Waldo?" by Martin Handford, 25 years
"Chicken Sunday," by Patricia Polacco, 20 years
"The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales," by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, 20 years
"Mississippi Trial, 1855," by Chris Crowe, 10 years; Utah author's story of the trial of Emmett Till