Becoming Beatrix

Chicago Review. Mar. 2022. 176p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781641604406.
Gr 4-8–An overly detailed but still fascinating biography about the creator of the “Peter Rabbit” tales. Beatrix Potter was born in Victorian England as the daughter of wealthy parents. Though she led a sheltered childhood and was often sickly as a teen, Potter was encouraged by her father to study art, nature, and writing at an early age. She first began painting her famous animal characters as greeting card illustrations and eventually went on to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1901. Potter also managed her own business affairs, presented a paper on the reproduction of fungus, and became a sheep farmer. O’Quinn gives readers a well-rounded account of the author-illustrator. Influences, family quarrels, and vacations are enumerated in painstaking detail. To present Potter as more than “just” the author of silly children’s books, O’Quinn overwhelms the narrative with tidbits that will distract report writers and confuse casual readers. The artist’s frowned-upon romances will be enjoyed by middle schoolers, but the revelation of her real-estate blunders and the listing of her causes and charities, will lose readers’ interest. The sections that detail how Potter used her money and influence to preserve and conserve almost the entire Lake District National Park and how she rescued her publisher from going bankrupt are eye-opening. Chapter headers and opening quotations, black-and-white archival photos, and spot art keep the design engaging.
VERDICT Purchase where there’s a need for more biographies on women writers, scientists, artists, and conservationists.

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