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GNN Junior: Beatrix Potter, Creator of Peter Rabbit

Posted on August 10 2020

GNN Junior: Beatrix Potter, Creator of Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit eats vegetables from Farmer McGregor’s garden. The bunny with the blue jacket is a famous character from children’s literature. Beatrix Potter was both the author and illustrator of this tale and many others that feature adorable animals.

Helen Beatrix Potter was born on July 28, 1866. Her family was wealthy. They lived in Kensington, which is a fancy suburb of London, England. Queen Victoria was the ruler of England at the time. Like other children of wealth in Victorian England, Beatrix was educated at home by a governess. She rarely saw her parents or other children. She was lonely.

However, her father took her to visit London’s museums. There, she saw art and history up close. By the time she was eight years old, she taught herself to draw. She made her own sketchbooks and mostly drew animals and plants.

She and her brother Bertram loved animals. In their schoolroom they kept frogs, a tortoise, salamanders, and a bat! In their garden, they saw rabbits, mice, and hedgehogs. Their family spent vacation in the countryside. This gave the children the opportunity to wander freely outside. Here, Beatrix and Bertram studied nature.

Bertram was sent off to school when Beatrix was a teenager. She then spent most of her time alone, studying, painting, and sketching. Her interest in the natural sciences continued. She even earned some money by making illustrations for greeting cards.

Her first formal work was in her twenties. She was a naturalist. She learned how to draw what she saw in a microscope. She was interested in mushrooms and wrote a paper on the subject. However, her work was not taken seriously.

As a result, she focused more on painting and drawing. She wrote letters to the children of her former governess. She added illustrations to these letters, to entertain them. In September 1893, she sent a letter that featured a special bunny she called Peter Rabbit. She based her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, on that letter.

In 1901, she tried to have her rabbit story published. It was rejected by six publishers. Instead, she made the book herself. A publisher happened to see it and agreed to make the book. Within a year, it was a huge success.

She bought a farm and enjoyed her life there. She wrote and illustrated more children’s books based on animals. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle was a hedgehog. Jeremy Fisher was a frog. She created another rabbit character too, Benjamin Bunny.

Beatrix Potter died on December 23, 1943, when she was 77 years old. She left over 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust of Great Britain. This preservation organization still maintains her land today. Meanwhile, children around the world still enjoy her illustrations and stories.

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