Our final book in the gardening series is the middle grade biography Becoming Beatrix: The Life of Beatrix Potter and the World of Peter Rabbit by Amy M. O’Quinn.
On September 4, 1893, a 27-year-old woman with thick brown hair and bright blue eyes penned a letter to a friend’s sick child. To cheer him up, she wrote a story and decorated it with pen and ink drawings of a family of rabbits. It was not unusual for her to do this; she was always writing letters to children that contained stories and drawings. What was special about this particular letter was several years later she would turn the story into her first book for children, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter went on to write more than 20 books. Many are still available and popular today, even though they were written over 100 years ago.
Author Amy M. O’Quinn reveals Beatrix Potter’s life from her early childhood in a privileged but highly-restricted household, to her later years as a farmer and conservationist. The journey of this beloved children’s book author and illustrator is fascinating, full of hardships and disappointments as well as successes.
Beatrix continued to write even after she could no longer see to draw. Her last book, Wag-by-wall (illustrated by J.J. Lankes), was published after her death.
Becoming Beatrix is smaller in size, 5.5 by 8.5 inches, which echoes Beatrix Potter’s own ideas about book size.
“She’d loved Anna Barbauld’s tiny child-sized book when she was young and was inspired to create something similar that would easily fit into small hands.”
The illustrations are mostly historical photographs, giving a sense of the times and places Beatrix lived. It also has design touches that celebrate Potter’s illustrations, including rabbits in the beginning of chapters and carrots between sections.
The back matter includes “Notes” to references, a bibliography and a very useful index.
Becoming Beatrix Potter is perfect for young fans of Beatrix Potter and those interested in women’s history. The book would be wonderful to accompany a trip to Hill Top Farm. Get lost in a copy today!
Related Activity Suggestions
Why choose this title for gardening week? In her later years Beatrix Potter purchased Hill Top Farm and spent a great deal of time working on the gardens, which were also used as background for some of her books. You can get a glimpse of them here:
You can use Beatrix Potter’s most famous book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, for inspiration and grow your very own storybook theme garden.
A storybook garden celebrates the fruits and vegetables named in a favorite book. For The Tale of Peter Rabbit, you might choose to grow the vegetables that Peter ate, such as lettuces, french beans, radishes, and parsley. Or you might want to grow all the fruits and vegetables mentioned in book.
First, find a place to grow your garden. Consider whether the area gets at least six to eight hours of sunshine per day (vegetables need a lot of sun to grow properly) and whether it is close to a reliable source of water.
If you don’t have a plot of ground, don’t give up. Can you grow vegetables in pots or containers? Many vegetables will grow in large pots on a patio or balcony if there is enough sunlight. If not, see if your town or city has a community garden where you can rent or share a garden plot.
Write down the fruits and vegetables you want to grow.
All the edible plants mentioned in the book:
- French beans (green or string beans in the U.S.)
- Gooseberry (old-fashioned fruit that grows on a bush)
- Public domain image by Joanna Dubaj
- Blackcurrant (Wikipedia article)
- Camomile (Chamomile) for tea
Check to make sure the plants will grow where you live and what varieties are available. For example, you might not be able to grow blackcurrants where it is too warm.
Design a garden to fit the space based on what you learn. You may only be able to add one or two plants of a given vegetable if you are using pots or if your space is limited. Smaller is better if this is your first garden.
Prepare the soil
Gardeners have many different methods of preparing the soil and it will vary from place to place. Usually you will need to clear weeds and debris from the area you have chosen, then dig up and turn over the soil. Vegetables grow best in soil that contains some compost. Check with local gardening resources to find out what is recommended for your climate and soil type.
When it comes to planting a garden, timing is everything. Find out when the best time to plant is for your growing zone (USDA plant hardiness map). Some vegetables, such as peas, can withstand a bit of cold weather. Others, like tomatoes, are killed by a frost. Plan accordingly.
Taking Care of Your Garden
A vegetable garden will need tending throughout the growing season. You will need to learn about weeds and pull them out so you vegetables have plenty of room to grow. Make sure to water the plants as needed.
Will you have to worry about animals eating the vegetables, like Peter Rabbit did? Will you need to keep your dog from running through? Then you might need a fence like the one from the book.
Keep records of what you do. Write regularly in a gardening journal and take photographs. That way you can remember what worked, what didn’t, what varieties grew well, etc.
Let us know how it goes!
We have a previous post with more ideas for theme gardens.
See our previous review of Amy M. O’Quinn‘s book Marie Curie for Kids: Her Life and Scientific Discoveries, with 21 Activities and Experiments.
Reading age : 8 – 12 years
Publisher : Chicago Review Press (March 22, 2022)
ISBN-10 : 1641604409
ISBN-13 : 978-1641604406
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.
Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.