The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck – Beatrix Potter

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

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

I had actually never read this one before, and it turns out it may just be one of my favourite of Beatrix Potter’s books. Jemima is so deliciously oblivious to her danger, and so much of the story happens in subtext. It is delightful.

Plus it has a female protagonist and actually passes the Bechdel when Rebeccah Puddle-duck and Jemima have a little spat about the latter’s egg sitting abilities.

I actually quite honestly thought that this book was going to end with Jemima being eaten by the “bushy long-tailed gentleman”, and was a little disappointed when she wasn’t. (I am probably a bad person for this, but oh well.)

Having said that, her eggs were still eaten by the fox hound puppies who saved her life, and that in itself is part of what I love about Potter in general, and this book in particular – there is no shielding children from the truths of nature.

C enjoyed it, although I don’t think he entirely got it. We had a conversation about the fox and what had happened to him and why and he was certain that the dogs were just being mean to him. I asked him if he thought the fox was going to eat Jemima and he said, “I don’t think so, but the dogs chased him away anyway.” Charitable kid. 😉

It’s a great little story – just a little bit dark, but in the best way. I’ve given it an ideology point because I love stories that don’t sugar-coat things too much for kids. I am in the camp that believes that kids can handle dark stories a lot better than most adults think they can, and shielding them from the natural cycles of the world too much can be a bad thing. So a book like this where we can become invested in Jemima and also in the polite and charming villain who wants to eat her blurs the lines between good and bad in interesting ways.

What do you think? Is it a little too dark? Do you think Jemima  deserved eating? Do you read darker books to your children?


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