My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Book #59 for 2016
I’m not sure where to start. Well, okay, let’s start with this: I bought this book by mistake. I was looking for something that I “should have read in school” for a reading challenge, and I was running very short on time and decided hey, Montessori (which I attended when I was four) is a school, which totally made children’s picture books fair game. I saw Beatrix Potter’s name on the cover, and since I didn’t think I’d ever actually read any Beatrix Potter, I thought I was saved. Yeah, not so much.
You see, this book did not exist when I was a tyke. Potter wrote it in 1914, yes, but she never illustrated it and she tucked it away. As a writer, I can tell you that when a creative tucks something away unfinished and never revisits it, there is probably a good reason, and it should probably stay tucked away. But there is this current fad of rooting around in the slop buckets of dead and dying authors, pulling out gok what, and publishing it. In this case, they also hired an illustrator (Quentin Blake) whose work is so unlike Potter’s that I have to think they did it on purpose, but I can’t think why. It’s ugly and sloppy and drab and unrefined. True, I’m not a particular fan of Beatrix Potter, but at least I look at her illustrations and have a vaguely positive and appreciative reaction.
As for the story, well, I don’t have any experience with Potter’s oeuvre (except possibly for one time that I seem to recall my mom trying to read me something about clothed, talking rabbits stealing cabbages and I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept of a cabbage, which I had apparently never encountered, so we didn’t get very far, and googling it just now suggests that it was actually a Peter Cottontail story, which is a whole different thing, even if Peter Cottontail’s real name was Peter Rabbit, and why in the holy heck did nobody sue anybody before this actually became a thing?), so I can’t tell you how this compares to her other stories. But as an adult who has read enough early 20th-century English literature and history to be reasonably familiar with that way of life, I found this story strange and confusing, so I can’t imagine any modern American child making any sense of it whatsoever. My guess is that this was a rough draft that Potter never felt compelled to work further on, but somebody decided to make a quick buck off of it.
And they somehow roped Helen Mirren into this. The book comes with a CD of her narrating the story. I was sorely tempted to listen to it to see how many f-bombs she managed to drop (I adore Helen Mirren!!) but I also had the idea that, since the book was still in pristine condition after one reading, I might donate it to a holiday toy drive. But I couldn’t bring myself to inflict this, even with the delightful prospect of Mirren teaching some little girl how to tell some presumptuous boy to fuck off, on some poor child who would be much happier (and rightfully so) with a video game. Hell, even a Hatchimal would be better entertainment.
So, there it sits on a table in my living room. I have no idea what to do with it.