Helen Beatrix Potter was best known for her writing, but she was also an illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist. She is mostly known today for her 23 children’s books, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit (originally a self-published book written in 1901), featuring a variety of different animals such as Squirrel Nutkin and Jemima Puddle-Duck. Children the world over still enjoy her books, and their film spinoffs, today.
She wrote 30 books, her most well-known were a collection of 23 children’s tales. The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots was written over 100 years ago in 1914 but she never found time to illustrate it and it was published posthumously. Over 100 years after being written it was brought to life and published with the illustrations of Sir Quentin Blake, the illustrator of over 300 books including books written by Roald Dahl.
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is a story of a black cat, a black cat like no other.
Once upon a time there was a serious, well-behaved young black cat … or so her owner thinks! This black cat leads a double life with the help of a substitute cat that her owner is unaware of. This cat has been named Kitty by its owner, but Kitty prefers to go by the name of Miss Catherine St. Quintin.
By day, Kitty is a very docile cat, the pet of a kind old lady. But by night, things change without the owner’s knowledge and Kitty, or should I “Miss Catherine St. Quintin” becomes a poacher after persuading another black cat to take her place at home. Miss Catherine St. Quintin prowls the ample countryside dressed in a gentleman’s Norfolk jacket, little fur-lined boots and carrying an air-gun to go hunting!
With a trip through the night forest, Kitty gets into lots of scrapes with mistaken identities, devious vile villains and even an appearance from a fat Peter Rabbit.
Overall, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter is a fascinating story told with her trademark dry humour. I think children will like the story (although some of the terminology used might need to be explained) whilst older children and adults will find it quite dark with the old lady worrying that her beloved cat might be stolen to make black cat-skin muffs and her gun-toting cat going out to shoot other animals whilst out poaching. It can be humorous at times and for readers of different ages, reading levels and understanding it will leave them finding it quite dark and not enjoying it whilst others will love the tale of a dressed-up cat, angry at other animals on her night-time journey around the forest.
Quentin Blake is an excellent illustrator and has illustrated this book in his very unique and recognisable way, which for me, sadly, isn’t on a parity with Potter’s style. Whilst the illustrations do convey what is happening within the story very well, they just don’t seem as tight and clean as expected from Beatrix Potter and they just don’t seem to fit the book.
For me, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots just wasn’t as enjoyable as some of her other books and can be quite hard to follow, especially if reading it with younger readers and having to explain things in a child-friendly way. I don’t think it is Beatrix Potter at her best, maybe this is why she didn’t finish illustrating it or publishing it?
I think this will be a book for older, die-hard Beatrix Potter fans rather than a younger audience. The themes of aggression and violence (scratching, spitting and shooting) are probably a bit too much for fans of the fluffy and cute Peter Rabbit.
RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Available to buy from Amazon here.