Deborah Hopkinson guest post about Beatrix Potter!

blog tour bannerDeb­o­rah Hop­kin­son is the author of near­ly 50 fan­tas­tic books for young read­ers. I have blogged pre­vi­ous­ly about sev­er­al of these books, includ­ing her most recent non­fic­tion work, Courage & Defi­ance, which was named a NCTE Orbis Pic­tus rec­om­mend­ed book and Syd­ney Tay­lor award notable book. Her newest mid­dle grade nov­el, A Bandit’s Tale, The Mud­dled Mis­ad­ven­tures of a Pick­pock­et, a Junior Library Guild selec­tion, will be released this April. And today we’re cel­e­brat­ing the recent release of Beat­rix Pot­ter and the Unfor­tu­nate Tale of a Bor­rowed Guinea Pig (Schwartz & Wade), which I know will have a spe­cial place in my heart because a) I love guinea pigs, and b) when I was a lit­tle girl I had a beloved set of bun­nies named Flop­sy, Mop­sy, and Cot­ton­tail. Just check out this intrigu­ing review:

As this book’s fore­bod­ing title sug­gests, a guinea pig does not sur­vive its encounter with the future cre­ator of Peter Rab­bit—nor do Sal­ly the snake, an unnamed bat, and numer­ous snails. In her child­hood, Beat­rix Pot­ter made a habit of cap­tur­ing London’s wild crea­tures. “But the sad truth is that although Beat­rix loved ani­mals, she did not always have the best of luck with them,” sighs Hop­kin­son (Courage & Defi­ance), who shares evi­dence from Potter’s child­hood diary and, accord­ing to an after­word, takes a few autho­r­i­al lib­er­ties with actu­al events. Trou­bles arise when Beat­rix bor­rows a pet guinea pig, drol­ly named Queen Eliz­a­beth, to sketch. After Queen Eliz­a­beth devours a fatal “repast of paper, paste, and string,” Beat­rix humbly returns to its own­er with “a stiff and bloat­ed Queen Eliz­a­beth” and a “delight­ful lit­tle water­col­or” of the sub­ject. Hopkinson’s jest­ing tone com­bines false grandeur with a note of regret, and Voake’s (Gin­ger) breezy water­col­ors sug­gest Beatrix’s com­bi­na­tion of curios­i­ty and non­cha­lance. Sen­si­tive souls will feel for Beatrix’s vic­tims, even as this divert­ing nar­ra­tive sheds light on her child­hood fas­ci­na­tions. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Steven Malk, Writ­ers House. (Feb.).”  – Pub­lish­ers Weekly

And now, here is today’s guest post, writ­ten by Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son her­self:

Deborah HopkinsonThis year marks the 150th anniver­sary of the birth of Beat­rix Pot­ter (1866–1943), the cre­ator of some of the best-loved children’s clas­sics in the world. I first began toy­ing with the idea of writ­ing about Beat­rix five years ago, but it took more than a year and a half of tri­al and error. Final­ly, with the guid­ance of my edi­tor Anne Schwartz at Schwartz & Wade, I found my way to the sto­ry that became Beat­rix Pot­ter and the Unfor­tu­nate Tale of a Bor­rowed Guinea Pig. Inspired by a true inci­dent that Beat­rix record­ed in her jour­nal, she recounts bor­row­ing a guinea pig named Queen Eliz­a­beth from her neigh­bor, only to have it expire in the night from eat­ing paste and glue and oth­er for­bid­den treats.
Beat­rix Pot­ter was a fas­ci­nat­ing woman, as well as a leg­endary artist, author, and con­ser­va­tion­ist. Her jour­nal, writ­ten in code, was decod­ed and tran­scribed in 1958 by Leslie Lin­der and pub­lished in 1966. In it, Beat­rix describes a series of pet dis­as­ters, some of which appear in my book.
I was also intrigued by Beatrix’s cre­ative process. Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rab­bit, pub­lished in 1902, was orig­i­nal­ly a “pic­ture let­ter” writ­ten to cheer up a sick boy named Noel Moore, the son of her for­mer gov­erness. She begins, “My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you so I will tell you a sto­ry about four lit­tle rab­bits whose names were Flop­sy, Mop­sy, Cot­ton­tail, and Peter.
Beatrix Potter coverI love play­ing with the struc­ture of pic­ture books. Some of my pre­vi­ous books have been writ­ten in jour­nal for­mat, or divid­ed into innings or cours­es (like chap­ters). For this book, we want­ed to as much as pos­si­ble imi­tate one of Beat­rix Potter’s own pic­ture let­ters. Even before the title page, the sto­ry begins with an intro­duc­tion: “My dear Read­er.” At the end, the sto­ry is signed by me. The post­script? That’s an author’s note which includes pho­tos of Beat­rix and images of her jour­nal and the pic­ture let­ter to Noel. As an author who vis­its schools all over the coun­try, I’m look­ing for­ward to incor­po­rat­ing pic­ture let­ter into my author vis­its and can’t wait to see what stu­dents will cre­ate. I’m also eager to share with them the sto­ry of an artist and writer who began prac­tic­ing her craft at a young age.
Char­lotte Voake, whose delight­ful water­col­ors make this book so spe­cial, is British, and I’m excit­ed that our book will also be pub­lished in Great Britain in July, to coin­cide with Beat­rix Potter’s birth­day on July 28. The Roy­al Mint is issu­ing 50p coins in hon­or of Beat­rix (there is also a coin to mark the 400th anniver­sary of Shakespeare’s death).
For more Beat­rix Pot­ter spe­cial events, fol­low the hash­tag #Beatrix150 on Twit­ter. And, as Beat­rix learned the hard way, do be care­ful when­ev­er you bor­row some­thing from a neighbor.

Many thanks to Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son for guest blog­ging here today!  For oth­er stops on the Beat­rix Blog Tour please vis­it

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