Beatrix and her Bunnies

Beatrix and her Bunnies
Rebecca Colby and Caroline Bonne-Müller
Nosy Crow

For many adults, myself included, Beatrix Potter’s animal stories and nursery rhyme books were part and parcel of childhood. Indeed I had the entire set. How many though, are aware that Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit were real live creatures that the author befriended as she was growing up. That’s getting rather ahead though, for this pictorial biography of Beatrix starts with her childhood when she lived a rather lonely existence in a large London house. Even then she was an animal lover and had lots of small creatures as pets, but nonetheless she longed for a ‘special friend’ with whom she could play.

Rebecca Colby writes of how on family visits to the countryside, Beatrix would search for wild rabbits to play with but none would stay. None that is until Benjamin. A friend at last and one that would allow his carer make lots of sketches of him, honing her drawing skills in so doing. Inevitably though, Benjamin eventually dies and once more, Beatrix feels lonely. She uses drawing and painting to lift her spirits but, it’s only when she visits the countryside that Beatrix’s drawing really flourishes.

Some time later, another rabbit enters her life, it’s Peter, a truly playful and engaging creature, much loved by visiting children.

This gives Beatrix an idea. Perhaps she can write and illustrate a story about her much-loved bunnies so that children everywhere could read about them, and so she does.

Getting Peter’s adventures published is challenging but eventually she succeeds and the book becomes a huge success, allowing her to move to the countryside where she creates lots more stories.

A lovely book for young enthusiasts of her books and of the environment about which Beatrix cared so much. The elements of Beatrix’s life are beautifully interwoven by the author, who also provides an additional final note explaining Beatrix’s connection with the National Trust (who are collaborators in its publishing) – and equally beautifully illustrated by Caroline Bonne-Miller.

The Castle the King Built

The Castle the King Built
Rebecca Colby and Tom Froese
Nosy Crow

Using the rhythmic pattern and structure of the nursery rhyme This is the House that Jack Built, Rebecca Crosby cleverly mixes fact and fiction to create a story of the building of a medieval castle.

We meet those involved in its creation – stonemasons, carpenters

and smiths, as well as, once it’s built, the people who contribute to the castle’s functioning – grooms, knights, merchants, bakers, servants, minstrels and of course, ruler of the land -the king himself.

The final spread presents the entire cast of characters each of them explaining their part (this includes a few women residents not mentioned in the main text)

Rebecca’s skilful use of rhyme and rhythm ensures that the book reads aloud well and Tom Froese uses an appropriate retro style for his striking illustrations helping to create the long ago atmosphere of those days of yore when knights would joust and singing minstrels pipe and strum.

A thoroughly well-presented, enticing and gently educative book for classroom sharing and individual reading, published in collaboration with the National Trust. I specially like the final acknowledgement that everyone included played their part in the life of the making of the castle.