Prather’s Pick: 'The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit' is sure to ruffle feathers

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Diane Prather

“The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” written by Beatrix Potter, was published in 1902. The book was beautifully-illustrated with the author’s watercolor paintings. In the story, Peter Rabbit disobeyed his mother who told him that he must never go into Mr. McGregor’s garden. The book is a classic.

Now Peter Rabbit is back in a 2013 picture book that’s out in time for Christmas. “The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit” was written by Oscar-winning screenwriter and actress Emma Thompson. The picture book was illustrated by Eleanor Taylor whose artwork also appears to have been done in watercolor.

The book was published by Frederick Warne and Company, 2013. The book that I reviewed comes with a CD of the story, read by Emma Thompson.

The book begins at Peter’s house during the Christmas season. The rabbit burrow is decorated for Christmas. Ribbons, pinecones and holly leaves hang from the ceiling. Peter’s sisters are checking out some Christmas stockings and the goodies that have already been cooked for the celebration. And Peter? Well, he’s just Peter.

After Peter upsets the third bowl of mincemeat, his mother sends him to his aunt’s house for a cup of suet. Along the way, Peter meets up with his cousin Benjamin. He has been sent away from the kitchen, too. Benjamin is going to Mrs. Rabbit’s house for a handful of raisins.

The boy rabbits decide to take some time out from their errands to play rabbit cricket with some holly-berries and fir cones. That’s when William comes along.

William is a handsome-looking turkey with a green chest, green and red neck, and lots of black feathers. He keeps his feathers all fluffed out so he appears to be one big turkey. William struts all over the place. Boy, this turkey is full of himself!

William is also very gullible. He brags that he doesn’t have to go on errands for suet and raisins. Mrs. McGregor brings him treats each day. Furthermore, the McGregors say that on Christmas Day they will have him for dinner.

Gulp! Peter and Benjamin realize what’s going on. They finally tell William that he will be roasted and served for Christmas dinner, but William doesn’t believe them. He doesn’t think the McGregors would hurt a “single feather on his exquisite head.”

But William changes his mind when Peter tells him what happened to his father when he ventured into the McGregor garden. The turkey is horrified. His wattle even turns white.

After Peter and Benjamin return home and are severely scolded for forgetting about their errands, the cousins whisper about a way to save William. They decide to hide him.

The rabbits try to hide William by hanging him upside down. They try to hide him in the coal-scuttle and a great big pot, but nothing works because William’s feathers get in the way and the proud turkey refuses to fold them in.

Finally, Benjamin notices Mrs. McGregor’s bonnet, and he gets an idea.

At the end of the book, the reader will find a photograph of William, the real turkey who inspired the character in “The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit”.

Peter Rabbit is back, and he’s as lovable as ever. The book is absolutely charming!

The list price of this hardcover book (with CD) is $20.00, but I found it on sale. What a great Christmas present it would make!

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