April 2, 2012

Hello, Peter!

Hello, Peter!
By Beatrix Potter; illus by author
0-2 Puffin 12 pp.
978-0723267171 Board Book $5.99

Though authorial credit is rightfully given to Beatrix Potter, the original creator of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and the Flopsy Bunnies among many others, Hello Peter! is not, strictly speaking, one of her original stories. Rather, the editors at Puffin have taken a handful of Potter's original illustrations for The Tale of Peter Rabbit and paired them with a highly simplified, rhyming text ("Peter hops and hops. Peter hides in a flowerpot. Peter loves to jump and play. Peter's had a busy day..."). The result is a surprisingly charming board book that introduces babies and very young toddlers to Peter Rabbit and his propensity for mischief.

Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit is universally recognized as a classic in children's literature. However, it contains elements that render it better for slightly older children. The prose, though hardly archaic, is denser than that commonly used in picture books for pre-readers. In addition, some occurrences (Peter's father getting baked in a pie; Farmer MacGregor chasing Peter with a rake) could frighten little ones. Hello, Peter! by-passes these elements by focusing on Peter's romp through the vegetable patch, ending with him "safe at home, warm and snug" in his mother's arms without having experienced the chase that required chamomile tea to mend. Because of this, Hello, Peter! is not a fraction of the story that Potter's original is. That said, it's an admirable introduction to the original. Babies and toddlers familiar with Peter Rabbit from this very short board book will likely enjoy The Tale of Peter Rabbit even more when they are older, having already become attached to the story's famous protagonist.

With its puffy, board book cover, over-sized illustrations and simple, rhyming text, Hello, Peter! is, in every way, designed for babies and toddlers. While purists will likely find the results heretical, parents and care-givers will find much good to be had from this baby-friendly appropriation. Beatrix Potter wanted her books to be little, so as to fit in little hands. Given this, and given her sympathy for the very young, it may be safe to assume that the venerable author herself would not object to her creation being adapted for the very youngest of them all.

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