Continuing a tale is hard to do and rarely done well. Emma Thompson (yes, the actress) shows us that it is possible. Her new book The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit, inspired by the series of classic tales by Beatrix Potter, is a beautiful picture book with an entertaining story and excellent narration. Thompson has captured the spirit of the little bunny. The Peter Rabbit of 2012, almost indistinguishable from the bunny of 1902, is equally mischievous and adventurous. Readers will be happy to know Peter is as charming as ever in his latest adventure.
“What I need…is a change of scene.” proclaims Peter Rabbit and so begins Thompson’s tale. This is a story of the precocious Peter who finds himself on an auspicious journey to Scotland. Unfortunately for him, it happens to begin in the feared McGregor’s picnic basket. Peter is lured by “an interesting basket smelling of onions.” Mrs. McGregor almost gets her hands on the little bunny, but Peter is able to make a narrow escape. He finds himself shoeless, but no worse for the wear, in a forest thick with pines where he stumbles upon Finlay, a very large Scottish bunny who befriends him. Scottish games, a very large radish, and his eventual return home give Peter the anecdote to boredom he was looking for.
While the book and the illustrations are strong on their own, Thompson’s narration on the accompanying CD adds an extra touch. Her intimate relationship with the story and Peter the Rabbit permeate each word as they are read aloud with a beautiful cadence. Thompson’s authentic impersonation of a Scot brings the new characters to life in a way most readers could not. Even her strategic pauses are perfectly timed, leaving the reader and listener time to savor Eleanor Taylor’s images.
The story’s text is nestled amongst close-up scenes bidding the reader to peer further into the story and linger on each image’s detail. The muted watercolor is just right for Peter Rabbit’s little blue coat, the Scottish vegetation, and the interior of Finlay’s burrow. Even the dust cover and book plate (in the hardcover) are touched by the Peter Rabbit magic- both are thoughtfully illustrated and have the appearance of being chewed by one little bunny.
The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit is a must read, and a must listen, for kids 4-7. Available in hardcover or E-Book.