Thursday, January 5, 2012


Peter Rabbit is a cute, but very naughty little bunny who is the main character in a book that was written by Beatrix Potter.  Peter was based on a real rabbit that Ms. Potter owned when she was a child, and that rabbit's name was Peter Piper.  The other rabbits she had as a child were named Josephine, Mopsy, Flopsy, and Benjamin Bouncer.

Age 9
Beatrix Potter and her brother Bertram grew up in Victorian England.  They weren't allowed to have other children as friends, so they played together, and they had lots of pets to play with, too.  Here are some of the pets they had:  frogs, lizards, water newts, snakes, mice, birds, a tortoise, and rabbits.  Beatrix and Bertram spent a lot of time studying these animals and drawing pictures of them.

Age 15
Bertram went off to boarding school, but Beatrix stayed home and studied with a governess until she was 18.  She learned languages, literature, science, and history.  She had private art lessons, but she pretty much liked to paint things in her own way, using watercolors.  She also kept a secret diary which was written in a code that she made up herself.

First edition
In 1893, Ms. Potter wrote a picture letter to the 5-year-old son of one of her former governesses.  This little boy had been sick for a while, and Ms. Potter wanted to cheer him up with the story of a rabbit named Peter.  Later, in 1901, she paid out of her own pocket to print 250 copies of the little book, which was called The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  These copies cost one shilling each, and they sold very quickly, so Ms. Potter printed 200 more of them.

After that, she convinced Frederick Warne & Company to print 8,000 copies of the book.  This first edition came out in 1902, and the book has never been out of print since then.  It has been translated into 36 languages, and 45 million copies have sold.  Which makes it one of the best-selling books of all time.

So anyway, what happens in the book is that Peter lives with his mother and his sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail.  They walk upright and wear clothes, and they live in a rabbit-hole under a fir tree.  Mrs. Rabbit tells her children never to go into Mr. MacGregor's garden because that is where their father met his sad fate and ended up as part of a pie.

But when Mrs. Rabbit goes shopping, and the girl bunnies go out to gather blackberries, Peter sneaks into Mr. MacGregor's garden.  He finds lots of yummy veggies there, and he eats so many of them that he gets sick.  Then Mr. MacGregor sees Peter and starts chasing him.  Peter loses his jacket and shoes during the chase, and he has several close escapes from the farmer before he finally gets away.

Mr. MacGregor uses Peter's jacket and shoes to make a scarecrow, which seems like it would be a very small scarecrow, and not the kind of thing that would scare a big, black crow.  But I am not a farm girl, so I don't know much about these subjects.

Meanwhile, Peter runs home and arrives there feeling all tired and sick.  His mother puts him to bed with a dose of camomile tea.  But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail get to have a nice supper of bread, milk, and blackberries because they have been such good little bunnies.

All together, Beatrix Potter published more than 23 books.  The ones that people know best were published between 1902 and 1922.  Ms. Potter used the money she got from her writing to buy a home in the Lake District of England.  This area is in the northwest part of England, not too far from Scotland.  When Ms. Potter and her brother were young, their parents used to take them to the Lake District and to Scotland for family vacations.

Hill Top Farm
The place where Ms. Potter lived was called Hill Top Farm.  She spent a lot of time there and even used it as the setting for some of her stories.  In 1913, when she was 47, Ms. Potter married William Heelis, who was a lawyer from the Lake District town of Hawkshead.  Ms. Potter became a prosperous farmer and breeder of Herdwick sheep.  She bought many farms in the area so that the land could be preserved.  When she died in 1943, she was 77 years old.  She left most of her property to the National Trust, and now it is part of the Lake District National Park.

Oh, and here's something else that's interesting about Beatrix Potter.  She figured out that she could make a Peter Rabbit doll and patent it, which she did in 1903.  Then she came up with a Peter Rabbit board game.  This meant that Peter Rabbit was the first licensed character ever, and over the years, many types of products have been made using him and other characters from Ms. Potter's books.

Ms. Potter at Hill Top Farm
So that is the story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit.  Ms. Potter was more than just a writer and illustrator.  She was also a businesswoman, a scientist, and a conservationist.  The Hill Top Farm where she lived is still there, and tourists can go inside it.  Mom was in it one time, and Mom has also been on hiking trips in the Lake District twice.  Mom says everyone who goes to England should see the Lake District because it is so beautiful.
Ms. Potter and a dog named Kep, 1915


  1. Dear Piper,
    Thanks for writing this post- I remember I posted the story of Peter Rabbit and didn't know so much about Beatrix potter. Tas used to love this book so much, and is very sad to hear she isn't alive... I can't believe such an old book could be so good because old books very much bore me with too many letters I can't read them anyway.

  2. Dear Lucky,
    There are some old books that are still fun to read. I think maybe Peter Rabbit is a good one because it's about a rabbit. Wouldn't you agree? Of course, if it were about a basenji, that would be even better, but you can't have everything! LOL
    Love, Piper

  3. I'm so glad you like Ms. Potter, too, Piper! She is one of my favorite authors. When my children were little, we collected the Beatrix Potter story books and read them often. Now I give them to my grandchildren as birthday or Christmas gifts. (My, how time flies!) A few years ago, Harold and I went to see the movie "Miss Potter," which told a bit of her story. It was a good movie, though I think the film makers changed a few details of her life and left out a bunch, too.

    Maybe one day your Mom will write a story about you and publish it. You could be famous like Peter Rabbit! Who knows, maybe there will even be a Piper doll, too!


  4. Dear Aunt Sharon,
    I really like the idea of a Piper doll! That would be totally cool, and think of all the money we would make on royalties -- and Mom could spend that money to buy lots of yummy dog treats! I will tell Mom she should write a best-selling story about me right away. Or if she doesn't want to do it, maybe I'll just do it myself!
    Love, Piper

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  6. Hi people,
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