Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Castle Cottage

The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Castle Cottage

Susan Wittig Albert
Fiction  Series
For ages 14 and up
Penguin, 2011   ISBN: 978-0425243503

It is 1913, and for much of March and April, Beatrix Potter was laid low by a particularly nasty case of the influenza. Too ill and weak to leave her bed, Beatrix was forced to stay in her parent’s London house. Now it is summer and she is back on her beloved Lake District farm, working on another of her little books. She is also overseeing the work that is being done on her new property, Castle Cottage. Unfortunately, not much progress is being made, and Beatrix is getting more and more frustrated. Why are the workmen spending so much of their time sitting around doing nothing? Why isn’t the contractor, Mr. Biddle, on the job making sure that the workers are doing what they are supposed to be doing?

The situation is made even more worrying when one of Beatrix’s friends tells her that someone is stealing the building supplies that were purchased for the Castle Cottage job. Beatrix hears that Mr. Biddle has fired Mr. Adcock, one of the carpenters, and that he accused Mr. Adcock of being a thief. Beatrix happens to know Mr. Adcock, and she finds it hard to believe that the carpenter would be dishonest. She is far more inclined to think that Mr. Biddle is the thief.

Then, to the horror of everyone in the area, Mr. Adcock is found hanging from a rafter in the Castle Cottage barn. At first it looks as if the poor man committed suicide, but then it is determined that Mr. Adcock was murdered. Who would do such a terrible thing and what secret had Mr. Adcock uncovered that made it necessary to silence him?

All of this is of course very distressing, but what makes it even worse is that Beatrix and her fiancée, Will Heelis, are beginning to fear that they will never be able to marry. Both Beatrix’s parents, and Will’s family are apposed to the match, and Beatrix is such a dutiful daughter that she does not want to upset her selfish parents by marrying against their wishes.

The Big Folks are not the only ones in the village who are having problems. The animals have discovered that a band of enormous and villainous rats have moved into the area, and if they don’t do something soon, the rats are going to steal everything they can carry or drag away. The problem is that the village cats are just not up to the challenge of dealing with so many vicious enemies.

Readers who have followed the story of Beatrix, her friends, and her animal neighbors are going to love this final chapter in the Cottage Tales series. Once again, Beatrix demonstrates that she has a definite gift for solving mysteries. This time though Beatrix not only helps others, but she is helped in return.