Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake (InfoSoup)
Published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth, this picture book tells the true story of an event in Potter’s childhood. Beatrix loved animals from a very young age. In fact, she and her brother had quite a collection of animals over the years from a family of snails to rabbits trained to walk on a leash. Beatrix also loved to draw and paint her animals. One day, she wanted to paint a guinea pig so she borrowed one from a neighbor. The guinea was a magnificent specimen named Queen Elizabeth. Beatrix promised to return Queen Elizabeth the next morning “unharmed.” Unfortunately though, she would not be able to keep that promise!
Hopkinson adopts a wonderfully wry tone throughout this picture book where readers know that something horrible is going to befall Queen Elizabeth. There is lovely foreshadowing from the title but also from the demise of other creatures in Beatrix’s care, including the family of snails who simply dried out and lizards eaten by birds. The pacing here is delicately balanced, allowing plenty of time for the dread to creep in as Beatrix takes the guinea pig home.
Voake’s illustrations are done in pen and watercolor, showing the world of Victorian England as well as the myriad pets owned by the Potter family. Voake includes parts of Potter’s own diaries in the illustrations, showing her detailed look at her pets and also illuminating how some of them died.
This picture book offers a humorous look at young Beatrix Potter who would become known for her images of animals living through what many children do when they care for others pets or even their own. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.