As we celebrate Easter and enjoy the spring break with family and friends, we at Books & Books are excited and swimming in the deep end of nostalagia, as “Peter Rabbit” hits our cinema screens.
The film, like the Paddington franchise, allows us all to celebrate a second childhood and introduce the current generation to a much-loved character whose existence — alongside Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail — came about only due to Beatrix Potter’s running out of topics to write about to her good childhood friend, Noel, in 1893.
Beatrix spent her early years living, exploring and falling in love with her native Lake District in England and holidaying in the rugged Scottish countryside.
Not only did Beatrix become a skilled botanist, mycologist and conversationalist, but she also interwove her deep love for the everyday countryside creatures (mice, rabbits, hedgehogs and frogs) in the stories she told of their lives in letter or greeting card form.
Always creative with artist flair, Beatrix used her skills to compile a collection of 23 adorable and feisty characters. Peter Rabbit was the original rascal that was first published in 1902.
Beatrix’s name will always be associated with her whimsical world, but she was a true trailblazer. In 1903, working with the mercurial book publisher Frederick Warne, she created a range of complementary products for her writing. A Peter Rabbit doll was followed by other “spin-off” merchandise over the years, including painting books, board games, wallpaper, figurines, baby blankets and china tea sets. This was in an era when business opportunities were limited for women, who were still 25 years away from being allowed to vote in the United Kingdom, and only a few decades on from when female authors didn’t have to use a male pseudonym to get their books published.
Beatrix left a substantial gift of land, farms, cottages and cattle to the National Trust of the United Kingdom, which used the properties to create the impressive Lake District National Park, the largest and most visited national park in the United Kingdom. If you’re fortunate to explore this stunning park, clamber among the rocks, look out across the lakes, hear a rustle in a hedgerow and remember you’re in Beatrix Potter’s world.
Terry Cleaver is the store manager of Books & Books in Camana Bay.