Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Here we have a new book, brand new and shiny, published in our own 2020. Written by Lindsay Metcalf and illustrated by Junyi Wu.

What caught my readers-eye at first:
The topic
The art

Beatrix Potter has a bevy of well-loved characters: Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and many more.

But she had another passion aside from writing: fungi.

It was fascinating to learn about a part of Beatrix Potter’s life that I had never heard of before. She was a careful observer of nature and we see that in her art. It also served her well as she was one of the first people in Britain to successfully sprout fungi spores.

Her botanical work was meticulous, but Beatrix was never able to overcome the prejudice against women participating in science.

One part I particularly appreciated in the book is how it doesn’t downplay either one of her gifts of science and storytelling. They are both shown as valid passions and her pivot to writer was not portrayed as a sloppy-second choice. Science and the arts, together and beautiful.

The illustrations take this great book to the next level. They are bright and well-researched, but best of all they remind us of Beatrix Potter’s own illustrations. It does not mimic, though, it just gives a similar feel and sweetness.

–Now I must put on my writer hat.

This book incorporates many “tricks” to help draw in the young listener and keep them engaged. It’s not over the top, it’s seamless and natural.

Alliteration is used like a little sprinkling of salt – boosting focus or bringing a smile here and there but not everywhere.

Wordplay is found throughout. One of my favorite pages is set in a kitchen and Beatrix has a “hunger for answers” and “can taste the breakthrough.”

Simile is sparingly used but to good effect.

The rhyme of the ending lines, as they were the only rhyming lines in the text, helps stick them in your brain and leaves off on a high note.

Overall, it’s both a good book for reading with the 3+ year old kids and a good mentor text if you’re interested in writing non-fiction picture books.

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