Beatrix Potter and Her Paintbox
by David McPhail
2015. Henry Holt.
Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is the English author and illustrator of such beloved tales as The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.
This picture book biography begins with Beatrix's childhood, when she receives her mother's paint box. At first it seems as though the author is going to tell a particular anecdote from her childhood involving the paint box, but instead the text is largely just a list of facts: Beatrix fell ill, Beatrix did not like painting lessons, Beatrix wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The book covers almost the entirety of her adulthood in the final two pages, but does not mention her death.
About the Illustrations
The watercolor and ink pictures are done in David McPhail's instantly recognizable style. They have lots of warm light in them, which portrays a coziness many young readers are likely to associate with Potter's stories. Unfortunately, the pictures are only direct translations of what is in the text, with no real additional details or personality. The color palette also makes the pictures feel old-fashioned, and almost boring.
This book does not include an author's note, but there is a dedication in which the author thanks Laura for encouraging him to write a book about his hero.
This book might work as an introduction to this author for a kindergarten class, but it is unlikely to meet the requirements of most book report assignments, as it does not tell when the subject died, or even really how she became so well known. The text is true to real life, which is appreciated, but it doesn't do enough with those real-life details to warrant publishing this book in the first place.