Today we are honored to welcome a very special guest to Alphabet Soup: the one and only Amiable Guinea-pig!
After reading and reviewing Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake (Schwartz & Wade, 2016), we felt a tasty homage to this dapper little fellow was definitely in order.
Peter Rabbit gets a lot of attention, as does Miss Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Jeremy Fisher, Tom Kitten and Squirrel Nutkin. In fact, they all have their own little books written about them. But not the Amiable one, who was actually the first guinea pig in Miss Potter’s work. She wrote a clever limerick about him that appeared in Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes (1917).
But one limerick does not a book make. Wouldn’t you feel a little slighted? To add insult to injury, initially Miss Potter’s publisher Frederick Warne & Co. wasn’t that keen on the Appley Dapply rhyme collection, which she had hoped to publish following the release of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902.
My Dear Reader,
Since I’m a big Beatrix Potter fan, I was happy to see Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake published in time to celebrate Miss Potter’s 150th birthday this year.
I enjoyed the story immensely, but I must confess it reminded me of my own tragic guinea pig experience (*shudder*). But more on that later.
This charming cautionary tale is about the time young Beatrix, who loved to draw and paint wild as well as tame animals, borrowed a guinea pig from her neighbor to use as a live model. She and her younger brother Bertram had lots of pets in the third floor playroom/science lab/art studio of their London home — pets such as snakes, snails, bats, ducks, rabbits, hedgehogs and salamanders. Though Beatrix loved all these creatures, we are warned early on that “she did not always have the best of luck with them.”
We are given evidence of several animal mishaps via journal entries that note an escaped snake and newts, a family of dead and dried up snails, and even a bat which was dismembered by a jay. And what of the unfortunate guinea pig? Beatrix especially loved painting animals doing “ordinary, everyday things, like reading the newspaper, working in the garden, or taking tea. (And why not?).” And the day came when Beatrix just had to paint a guinea pig and they didn’t have one at 2 Bolton Gardens. Not to worry, though, as quite a few of them apparently lived in Miss Paget’s parlor.