Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator:  Charlotte Voake 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2016   ISBN: 978-0385373258

Beatrix Potter lived in a house in London with her parents and her little brother. The children had the whole third floor of the house to themselves, and this was where they played their games, created art, did science projects and kept their pets. Both the children liked animals, but Beatrix in particular loved all living creatures, and she kept a lot of them as pets. Unfortunately, despite her love for the creatures she took in, Beatrix did not have a lot of luck caring for them. Some of the pets (most of which were wild) escaped, and once one wild pet killed another.

One day Beatrix decided that she “absolutely, positively” needed a guinea pig so that she could use it as a model for some pictures that she wanted to create. Beatrix was always drawing and painting pictures of animals, so this was not an unusual thing for her to do. Beatrix went to her neighbor’s house and asked if she could borrow her guinea pig, which the kind neighbor was willing to let Beatrix do.

Beatrix’s artistic endeavors started off well enough. She got to work and the guinea pig, Queen Elizabeth, was quite cooperative. Then Beatrix had to go to a dinner party and she left the pet on the table. While she was gone, Queen Elizabeth got busy eating whatever she could find. She ate blotting paper, string, and some glue. You can only imagine what happened next.

The author of this book read Beatrix Potter’s many diaries and found that many of the entries described her pets, which then inspired her to tell the story of Queen Elizabeth the guinea pig. Through the narrative and the quotes from Beatrix’s writings we get to know a little about the young girl who loved animals, and whose animal book characters would one day make her famous.

At the back of the book readers will find further information about Beatrix Potter and her life.