Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)
Beatrix Potter’s birthday is today, Sunday, July 28, 2019. She means a lot to me and my children. Her influence has reached many over time and around the earth. I love her art and the story of how she came to live the life she wanted.
Perhaps no other Victorian artist, and not many childrens’ book illustrators and authors have been so remembered, recognized, and loved. The text may be archaic with Victorian vocabulary, (I often need a dictionary while reading!) but the illustrations are absolutely genius.
Above are my very first Beatrix Potter things. My parents were Anglophiles and this is my Peter Rabbit nursery set and my first book.
Her world is infectious and I’ve shared it with my children and all of my students over the last 14 years. In this post you will see how Peter Rabbit has come to live in our house and the “birthday” dinner my children and I did a few years ago!
From a depressing, stifling, and incredibly lonely childhood, run by a domineering tyrant mother, Beatrix Potter broke free after nearly 40 years. She did so over a period where she self-published her swan song “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” became engaged to her publisher Norman Warne when she was in her late 30’s, and after his death from cancer, bought a farm and eventually moved there.
Her Little Books were the vehicle for her journey to the important financial independence and self-esteem she needed to attain her freedom. And those books contain glorious work. Soft, naturely, a true celebration of God’s creation. Even now her worship with watercolors still resonates over a century later.
Reading these to my first graders every year is difficult, and I always think they will tire quickly of all the words they don’t know (and neither do I!) and the long length of the books. But that never happens. They are under Beatrix’s magic the second they clap their eyes on the pictures. They beg me to read all of them!
A few years ago we had a little dinner for her birthday. I am a firm believer in making magic for children. I went “shopping” in my classroom and in my house and found that I actually had a lot of things that would fit right in with the World of Peter Rabbit. Now I am a collector and I love beautiful and fun things. They inspire me so. Everything can be found on E-Bay at some time or another, just keep looking! This was really (although I didn’t know it at the time) the first Ginger & Pickles!
I can’t quite remember what we had for this meal but I know we had butternut squash soup with it and angel food cake (that my incredibly talented DD made) for dessert. I borrowed the silver and crystal from my mom.
The mushroom above I made from Sculpey clay and baked. Then I colored it with watercolor pencils and it looked like watercolor! It was such a fun craft! I was inspired by Beatrix Potter’s mushroom art- she was a very studious naturalist and loved fungi.
A wonderful game, finally made a long time after Potter’s death, designed and made by Beatrix herself! This is my son’s favorite game to play with me. We make up all different kinds of rules to keep it fresh. It’s basically McGregor chasing Peter through the garden as he tries to get his lost buttons. It’s also a wonderful map of his garden painted by Beatrix herself. It also comes with duplicates of her instructions and original Peter Rabbit letter. It is so fun!
It was also my sweet DH’s birthday this month so I made him his favorite- a Key Lime Pie! I just used the recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. It is delicious. He likes it with Key Limes because they are super sour!
If you love Beatrix too you can find a way to give your family or yourself some magic. See what you have to decorate with- it doesn’t have to be “Peter Rabbit” stuff. You could watch Miss Potter or the original animated series (on YouTube), and have a summery meal in remembrance of her. Have fun bringing magic into a regular old day!
With love and the spirit of Beatrix to you from Kansas Street,