cover image BEATRIX: Various Episodes from the Life of Beatrix Potter

BEATRIX: Various Episodes from the Life of Beatrix Potter

Jeanette Winter, . . FSG/Foster, $15 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-374-30655-7

Winter (Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World) spotlights another literary icon in this elegantly designed biography of Beatrix Potter. The book's diminutive size (approximately 6" × 6") belies its subject's forceful personality, which Winter telegraphs right from the cover portrait of a sad-eyed girl staring uncompromisingly at readers. The text highlights themes likely to be of interest to a young audience—Beatrix's lonely childhood, for instance, and her love of animals—and deftly incorporates passages from Potter's journals and letters (which appear in italics). Admirers may be particularly intrigued with the reception given the young Beatrix's artwork, both from her parents ("Father is critical of my pictures, and Mother is not interested") and from her drawing teacher, who has "different ideas" ("I do wish these drawing lessons were over so that I could have some peace and sleep of nights," the real Beatrix writes). As with her Dickinson biography, Winter's illustrations here are formal, distinct from the folk-art approach of many of her other picture books (including Niño's Mask, reviewed below). Stylized to emphasize the solidity of the figures and to reflect a palette dominated by springtime purples and teals, they offer a vigorous contrast to Potter's own inimitable work. Illustrations appear on one page of each spread, with a colored initial cap on the facing page of text adding an understated grace note. With attention to the smallest details, Winter creates a wonderful introduction to the author/artist and provides a fascinating look at events that led to her serendipitous career. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)