Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Gypsy Caravan by Beatrix Potter

2016, first published 1929  

This story was first published in America and was actually written for an American child of the writer’s acquaintance.  

It is a little difficult to define the reader here. The book has a fat spine, the language is quite sophisticated, the text is blocked and in an adult font, though in this edition the print is quite large. The adventures of the animals are complex.  This all suggests a fluent reader. However, the anthropomorphic animals rather suggest a younger reader. There are also several illustrations – both full colour ones as in Beatrix Potter’s other books and smaller line drawings within the text. Might this indeed be a story that a teacher or parent could read to a younger child?

There are several references to Potter’s farming life in the Lake District: the Herdwick sheep, Mistress Heelis (Potter married the solicitor William Heelis in1913) and such slightly altered place names as Pool Bridge (Pooley Bridge). Potter provided a glossary of terms and the publisher provided a few more. However, the texts are so well written that one understands their meaning when one meets them within the texts. 

This particular edition also provides a short biography of Potter, a suggestion as to how she came to write the story, some questions for the young reader, instructions on how to make a mouse out of pompoms and some tips for the young writer.       

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