These days, I read less and less fairytales and fables, however, I still like to pay hommage to some of my childhood favorites to show appreciation. What better week to do so than during Children's Authors & Illustrators Week!
To participate in Children's Authors & Illustrators Week, I am putting the spotlight on Beatrix Potter, a children's author and illustrator that touched, and continues to touch, the lives of many children with her lesson filled fables and her whimsical illustrations. Potter's stories and her enchanting drawings definitely left an indelible impression on me as a child. In this post, I pay hommage to the life of Beatrix Potter and her time-less work.
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BORN WITH A CREATIVE SPOON IN HER MOUTH
Beatrix Potter was born on the 28th of July of 1866 to Rupert William Potter, a Manchester College graduate and a practitioner of law and Helen Leech, the daughter of a wealthy cotton merchant and shipbuilder. Both Rupert and Helen were artistic and lived comfortably in wealth, both dispositions most likely contributing to Beatrix's creative abilities and freedoms to expressing them.
At the age of 14, Beatrix began keeping a diary that was encoded using letter by letter subsitution, a devise she herself created. Although the diary does not provide insight or a record of her personal life, it does reveal Beatrix's growing intellectual interests towards the 19th century society, the arts, and her unique ability to observe nature and describe it.
THANKS BE TO THE GOVERNESS
Beatrix Potter was privileged enough to be educated by three able governesses, moreover, it is to but one governess that we all should be eternally grateful. Annie Moore, Beatrix's last governess responsible for teaching her German also serving as lady's companion, was also a friend to Beatrix who remained such well after Beatrix's formation.
Annie's eight children were often the recipients of Beatrix's picture letters, so delightful that Annie often suggested to Beatrix that they would make good children's books. These encouragements could have been the catalyst to Beatrix Potter's creative works in children's literature. Thank you Annie!
THE AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR WE KNOW
As a teenager, Potter joyfully frequented the art galleries of London. Her diary reveals influence from her father's artist friend, Sir John Everett Millais and her education introduced her to works that would later influence her writing and illustrating styles such as Uncle Tom's Cabin and Brothers Grimm. Potter admired the work of the picture books by creators such as Kate Greenaway and Radolph Caldecott but her style became, uniquely, her own.
As a way to earn their own money, Beatrix and her brother began printing Christmas cards of their own design; Beatrix's illustrations being center on mice and rabbits. In 1890, a firm named Hildesheimer and Faulkner bought several of her drawings of Benjamin Bunny to illustrate the verses by Frederic Weatherly titled A Happy Pair. Potter saw what a success these were and decided to create and publish her very own illustrated story.
In 1902, Potter published the illustrated book that we know her best for: The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The year after she published The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester and continued to publish 2 to 3 books a year totally to 23 books. The popularity of Beatrix Potter's books were due to the lively spirit she breathed into her animal characters and the perfect portrayal and illustration of country living as well as her quaintly captivating story-telling.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit is etched in my mind, as well as in others', as a classic that will continue to enchant children worldwide. I have a French 1940 published edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Pierre Lapin) that I cherish. I can't wait until my niece is old enough to follow the story line so I can continue the tradition of passing along Potter's beautiful artwork and her enchanting stories.
Again, happy Children's Authors & Illustrators Week! I really hope you are able to celebrate by learning more about one of the authors or illustrators behind your childhood favorites, by just picking up one of your cherished fables and revisiting the story, or by simply reading this blog post! Did you learn something about Beatrix Potter? Let us know in the comments below!
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What was your favorite book as a child?