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Happy birthday, Peter


Once upon a time, there was a story about an engaging hero, an

exciting chase and a happy ending, written and exquisitely

illustrated by a gentle English countrywoman named Beatrix Potter.


My first memory of being read to was at age 4. Comfortably nestled

in my grandmother’s lap nightly, I was enthralled by her animated

reading of the tales of naughty Peter Rabbit, irrepressible Squirrel

Nutkin and self-important but endearing Jemima Puddle-Duck. My great


love of these stories, and others by Beatrix Potter, endures.

Exactly a century ago, in the fall of 1902, Beatrix Potter’s

career as a children’s storyteller and artist began when “The Tale of

Peter Rabbit” was published in a size just right for a child’s hands.

Six firms had rejected the story, but the public loved it as soon as

it appeared.

Beatrix Potter lived a quiet, sometimes lonely life, and as a girl

was encouraged by her parents to spend time outdoors drawing and


painting. The Potter family also had a menagerie, and the character

of Peter was taken from Beatrix’s real-life pet rabbit, “Bounce,”

whom she often dressed in little clothes and painted. Then, some

years later, in her late twenties, during a particularly solitary

time in her life, Potter started a correspondence with her childhood

governess’ son. “Dear Noel,” she wrote, “I don’t know what to write

to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose

names are Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.” Thus, began her


little illustrated story.

Twenty-two little illustrated books about other woodland creatures

followed. Potter’s works have been translated into more than 30

languages, sell in the millions of copies each year, and are loved by

children throughout the world.

To honor Beatrix Potter’s enduring literary legacy, the library is

displaying her works, various biographies, a selection of her letters

and a cookbook she inspired.

* MARIANNA HOF is the Laguna Beach branch librarian.