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The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Briar Bank

Susan Wittig Albert

Fiction (Series)

Ages 12 and up

Penguin, 2008, 978-0-425-22361-1

  Despite her mother’s efforts to keep Beatrix Potter in London, Beatrix leaves the city and goes to her much beloved farm in the Lake District. Here she can truly feel at home and she is delighted when there is a big snowfall. The post cannot get in or out of the village, the lake ferry is out of commission, and Beatrix can enjoy a little peace and quiet in the country world she loves best.

  Of course things are not altogether quiet. The village is buzzing with the story about the peculiar death of Mr. Wickstead. The antiquarian was out walking with his dog Pickles when a tree fell on him, and the poor gentleman died soon afterwards. Everyone wants to know what he was doing in the woods in the middle of that night, and where is the so-called treasure that Mr. Wickstead found. Was the story of the treasure just a rumor after all? The only person who can really answer this is Pickles, but of course the “Big Folk” are far too clueless to understand what he is trying to tell them. Something very strange indeed took place on the night when the tree fell on Mr. Wickstead. After trying to tell the Big Folk what happened (which is a waste of time of course), Pickles tries to tell the other animals what he saw. The story is so outlandish that they don’t believe a word he says.

  There is someone out there who would believe Pickles’ story though. One day Bailey Badger makes an extraordinary discovery. He finds a secret room in his sett that he did not even know was there, and in it there is a remarkable creature that Bailey Badger always thought was just the stuff of legend. It is the same creature that Pickles sees on the night when the tree falls on his master

  With great skill and creativity Susan Wittig Albert weaves together the threads of her story in a highly unusual and delightful way. Readers hear accounts from several different characters, including Pickles and Bailey Badger, and as the story unfolds they are able to piece together what took place on that fateful night and in the days before and after it. Of course, as in the other books in this series, Beatrix Potter comes up with a grand dénouement at the end of the story, though there are some things that she just doesn’t know, though she may suspect something rather magical took place in her neighborhood.

  Writing as if she is a spectator to the events in the story, Susan Albert Wittig punctuates her narrative with wonderful comments and observations about the events and characters. As a result the book is full of humorous and charming moments.

  A historical note at the back of the book ties the tale with the real events that took place in Beatrix Potter’s life in 1909.


The Tale of Briar Bank


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