Sunday, June 14, 2020

~ THE TALE OF TWO PETER RABBITS ~

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~ THE TALE OF TWO PETER RABBITS ~

--  Investigating the mystery of why two
popular book characters from the
early 20th century have the same name.  --


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  •  'THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT', WRITTEN & ILLUSTRATED BY BEATRIX POTTER, PUB. 1901.
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  •  'MRS. PETER RABBIT', WRITTEN BY THORNTON W. BURGESS, PUB. 1920. 

Recently I reread my collection of Beatrix Potter stories. Our library remains closed, and I began rereading children's literature from my own collection. I love Potter's stories and artwork tremendously. I used them a lot when I taught primary grades as read alouds because of the rich vocabulary and historical context of their content.

My students loved these stories, too. They especially enjoyed what I call the 'naughty' animal characters found in many of the stories. Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Hunca & Munca -- mischievous trouble-makers all. What fun!

My personal favorites are 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' and 'The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle'. Here is the Projeect Gutenberg free eBook of  'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter.
Project Gutenberg eBook of 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' by Beatrix Potter 

This week I began looking through the Library of Congress's 'Classic Books' on their Read.gov site. I mentioned this site in my 'Summer Reading Programs for Kids' series posted in May, 2020. The link to the 'Free Classic Books' page is:
Library of Congress Free Classic Books 

As I scrolled down I found a book entitled, 'Peter Rabbit'. The problem was, the cover did not match Beatrix Potter's story published in 1901, and the author's name was Thornton W. Burgess. The book was published in 1920.
Link to Read This Version on the Library of Congress Site 

On the Library of Congress's page about the book, the title is shown as 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' and lists more information about the book and the author.
Link to Read the Library of Congress Page Re 'Mrs. Peter Rabbit' 

 I love a good mystery as much as the next author/blogger, so my questions about why this author, Thornton W. Burgess, had published a book using the same character name as one which was already in publication when he wrote it took me 'down a rabbit hole' (pardon the pun) that finally resulted in some answers . . . I think! 😊

The biography of Thorton W. Burgess shared on The Literature Network's web page gives some details about why he named his story character Peter Rabbit.  
Find Thornton W. Burgesses's Bio Here

Leading to even more confusion is the issue of the author's naming his third volume of bedtime stories, 'The Tale of Peter Cottontail', published in 1914. The character name in these stories is Peter Rabbit. I found a post on the Thornton W. Burgess Research Center's website that tries to address this issue!
'The Adventures of Peter Cottontail' Article -- 'Burgess Names the Animals'  

Now, back to the Library of Congress. I found an informative and fun post about entitled, 'Here Comes Peter Cottontail:  Some Cultural History'. Read this article to find the true reason Thorton W. Burgess used the name, Peter Rabbit, in his own published stories. You can find the article by clicking on the following link.
'Here Comes Peter Cottontail: Some Cultural History' LOC Blog Post

If you are interested in more biographical information about Beatrix Potter, you can find her in-depth Goodreads bio at:
Beatrix Potter Bio 

If you are interested in more biographical information about Thornton W. Burgess or wish to see a list of his books, you can find his Goodreads bio and book list at:
Thornton W. Burgess Bio & Book List 

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Find the links to read more great Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts from middle-grade authors and bloggers at Greg Pattridge's 'Always in the Middle' Blog.

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Find the links to more great 'It's Monday! What Are You Reading?' (#IMWAYR) posts for children's and Young Adult books over at the Unleashing Readers website.

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11 comments:

  1. What a fun rabbit hole to go down. :) My kids LOVE Thornton Burgess. His "Bird Book" has been a staple in our homeschooling.

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  2. What a strange situation! Thanks for sharing all the neat articles and reminding me about some books that I've never read!

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  3. That's all so interesting. I started rereading some Nancy Drew books and discovered that many of them are written by other authors using the original author's name.

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  4. Fascinating! Also a fun way to kill some of this pandemic time. Great resources I'm sure I will spend a few hours with in the next week. Thanks for the interesting post on MMGM.

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  5. Wow, you really did some research. I love Beatrix Potter's books, but had no idea about Thornton W. Burgess' Peter Cottontail stories. In fact, are you saying that Burgess actually birthed the first Easter Bunny? Love the Danny Kaye videos. I was born in 1951. I always had a feeling that egg coloring came from the beautiful Russian eggs -- but what do I know? Fun research!

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  6. Very interesting! I loved the Peter Rabbit books as a kid. I even named my rabbit Flopsy. And the movie Miss Potter is one of my favorites! I haven't read Burgess, but I should probably remedy that. :)

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  7. When we visited the Cotswolds one year, I went exploring in an antique store and found some original Beatrix Potter prints mounted on cardboard. One thoroughly surprised me. It is a drawing of Cinderella dancing with the Prince! Since I collected CINDERELLA tales from around the world for my library and home collections, I was thrilled. All 3 small tinted drawings (one of rabbits) are certified over 100 years old.

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  8. I know stories by Thornton Burgess but they were The Mother West Wind Stories & I didn't know about the others, particularly the Peter Rabbit naming. This is fascinating & thanks for all the links!

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  9. Very interesting post. Thanks for all the links. I've always loved Potter's books as well. I wasn't familiar with Burgess's books.

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  10. We have a copy of the original Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, but I had no idea there was another one!

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  11. How interesting. We just never know where our little research projects will take us, do we? And I loved your 'down a rabbit hole' pun! LOL

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