The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

I absolutely love the Beatrix Potter books. I’m just going to put that out there from the start. There are a few of them on this list, and I am quite likely to be kinder on them than I perhaps should be. That said, this one scores fairly low in the end.

I dithered over the Bechdel thing – Mrs. Rabbit does talk to all of her children, three of whom are named females, which is nearly a pass, but I think that Peter’s presence in the conversation (and indeed, the fact that his perspective is the important one) nullifies that. There is definitely no diversity to speak of. Despite the fact that, with the exception of Mr McGregor, all the characters are animals, they seem to me to be quite clearly “British” (in the ‘default’ white middle class sense) characters.

I give the book credit for not pulling its “bunnies can be food” punches. Peter’s father was baked into a pie by the farmer’s wife. As someone who finds overly sensitive children’s plots that ignore this sort of reality a touch saccharine, Potter’s matter-of-fact pragmatism about nature and the food chain is rather refreshing. Still, even with that point, I can’t score it higher than I have.

Having said that, C loves this book. We’ve read it repeatedly over the last few years. I’ve already admitted my fondness for Potter’s books, so it’s no surprise I give it full marks for just being a great little tale.

I’m also a fan of books where children (or their animal proxies) are curious and naughty. They get into trouble, and in this case, nearly get eaten, but this sort of natural curiosity is way better than the syrupy goodie goodie nature of the alternative. Peter is a naughty little sod, and in the end very nearly becomes lunch. But he gets home safe to his long-suffering mother, and all is well (apart from his stomach ache).

I have to recommend this book. Published not even 20 years after the last Greenaway we read, it is so much more pragmatic, and has, in my not so humble opinion, stood the test of time a great deal better. Plus, personally, I way prefer Beatrix Potter’s straightforward illustrative style.

Still grand, after over a hundred years.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Beatrix Potter? Which one is your favourite?


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