The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

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I thought I was going to love Beatrix Potter’s tales. Who doesn’t love Peter Rabbit? To my surprise, however, I didn’t love her stories.

The book I read, Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales, is an absolutely gorgeous book. If you’re going to read Beatrix Potter, this volume is the one to have. I completely loved Potter’s illustrations. Her illustrations are works of art. I was incredibly impressed with her art work. I love the fact that she had most of these animals as pets and used those pets as her models for each character we now love. This volume includes all the stories by Beatrix Potter, complete with the illustrations she created. Before each tale is an “about” page that tells why Beatrix Potter wrote that particular story, what her inspiration was, and who she dedicated the story to. I found that very interesting. I have not seen the movie Miss Potter, but now I’m curious to see that representation of her life.

I liked some of the stories, but again, I was not as enthralled with this collection of stories as I had been when I read Winnie-the-Pooh. I did enjoy some stories and felt they were timeless: “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”, “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny”, “The Tale of Two Bad Mice” (so clever!), “Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes” and “Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes”, and “Three Little Mice”. I also liked “The Tailor of Gloucester” and “The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse”, although they felt dated.

Despite what others say about Beatrix Potter being timeless and classic, I did feel like many stories were pointless. For example, “The Tale of Ginger and Pickles” really seemed dull to me: Ginger and Pickles ran a store; it went out of business; they retired. Why should I care? Nothing happened in the story that drew me in, and I certainly don’t see what would attract children to that story. (Ginger and Pickles sell snuff to people in the store. It seemed like such an odd “children’s” story. Snuff appeared a number of times in Potter’s stories, and it bothered me every time. I can hear it now: “Mommy, what’s snuff? Why is the doggie buying that?”)

In “The Tale of Pigling Bland”, the title character is going to market, gets lost and kidnapped by a farmer who’s going to eat him, and meets another pig. Together, they run away from a farmer. I felt like there was nothing interesting to keep me wanting to read.

And again, in the longest and last of Potter’s tales, “The Tale of Little Pig Robinson”, Little Pig Robinson went to market to do some shopping for his aunts. When a “nice” man shares some snuff with Robinson, Robinson, apparently in a drug-induced stupor, follows him to a ship, where he becomes trapped as the man (who is the cook) fattens him for a feast. Luckily, Robinson escapes to a deserted island in the end, but it again was a strange story. I did not think it was not written well, either: Chapter one of eight followed a cat named Susan who happens to see a pig on a ship. Then we hear about Robinson’s departure from the farm and his subsequent story. The frame never returns to Susan. I couldn’t see the point of Little Pig Robinson’s story, other than he was very foolish and lucky to have escaped. I was incredibly bored reading this particular story: I can’t imagine a child would enjoy it either.

In all, I think some of Beatrix Potter’s stories are delightful and all of the artwork is beautiful, but I’m not a huge fan.

Have you read her complete tales? What did you think? Did you read them as a child, and what did you think then?

Reviewed on May 16, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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