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Book Review – The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit

further taleThe Further Tale of Peter Rabbit — Emma Thompson

By Claudia Haines

Have you seen those books and CDs hanging in bags near the “easy book” bins in the children’s library? The picture books, and their accompanying CDs, when bagged together are called kits and are a magical way to share a story with a child. A gem of a book was recently added to the kit collection and you won’t want to miss it. The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit is a beautiful picture book with an entertaining story and excellent narration.

This one is special in part because it is inspired by the series of classic tales about Peter Rabbit on the McGregor’s farm.  Continuing a tale is hard to do and rarely done well.  Emma Thompson (yes, the actress) shows us that it is possible. Thompson has captured the spirit of Peter as intended by Beatrix Potter, the writer/illustrator of the original tales. The Peter Rabbit of 2012, almost indistinguishable from the bunny of 1902, is equally mischievous and adventurous. Readers will be happy to know Peter is as charming as ever in his latest adventure.

“What I need…is a change of scene.” proclaims Peter Rabbit and so begins Thompson’s tale.  This is a story of the precocious Peter who finds himself on an auspicious journey to Scotland. Unfortunately for him, it happens to begin in the picnic basket of the feared McGregor’s. Peter is lured by “an interesting basket smelling of onions.” Mrs. McGregor almost gets her hands on the little bunny, but Peter is able to make a narrow escape. He finds himself shoeless, but no worse for the wear, in a forest thick with pines where he stumbles upon Finlay, a very large Scottish bunny who befriends him. Scottish games, a very large radish, and his eventual return home give Peter the anecdote to boredom he was looking for.

While the book and the illustrations are strong on their own, Thompson’s narration on the accompanying CD adds an extra touch. Her intimate relationship with the story and Peter the Rabbit are obvious and permeate each word as they are read aloud with a beautiful cadence. Thompson’s authentic impersonation of a Scot brings the new characters to life in a way most readers could not. Even her strategic pauses are perfectly timed, leaving the reader and listener time to savor Eleanor Taylor’s images.

The story’s text is nestled amongst close-up scenes bidding the reader to peer further into the story and linger on each image’s detail. The muted watercolor is just right for Peter Rabbit’s little blue coat, the Scottish vegetation, and the interior of Finlay’s burrow. Even the dust cover and book plate are touched by the Peter Rabbit magic- both are thoughtfully illustrated and have the appearance of being chewed by one little bunny.

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit is a must read, and a must listen, for kids 4-7.

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