Wednesday, August 14, 2013
This collection of Beatrix Potter books, held over from my own childhood days, has been in heavy rotation around our house lately. Just about every parent of a preschool-age child I know reports the same phenomenon. I'm fascinated with the idea that these Twenty First Century children, many of whom can swipe before they can walk, are still transfixed by these classics of Nineteenth Century literary production (and Twentieth Century publishing). Of course the lasting love Miss Potter's books evoke is richly deserved. Quite oddly, the person who best expressed why may actually very well have been John Updike, of all people, in this (admittedly somewhat sexist) poem from 1960 (which my 8th Grade teacher--who happened coincidentally to be my own mother, the same Grandma who passed the above stack of books on to Mabel--had our class memorize, and of which I find I still know considerable chunks):
Agatha Christie and Beatrix Potter
In capacious country dresses,
Full of cheerful art and nearly
Perfect craft, we love you dearly.
You know the hedgerows, stile, and barrow,
Have sniffed the cabbage, leek, and marrow,
Have heard the prim postmistress snicker,
And spied out murder in the vicar.
You've drawn the berry-beaded brambles
Where Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle rambles
And mapped the attics in the village
Where mice plot alibis and pillage.
God bless you, girls, for in these places
You give us cozy scares and chases
That end with innocence acquitted--
Except for Cotton-tail, who did it.