The Christmas tree is up and as I peruse ornaments collected over decades, I’m struck by how many of them are animals. There are cats and dogs, rabbits and squirrels, hedgehogs and birds (a humming bird, blue jay, goose, partridge), and cows and horses. At the back door, I struggle with getting sunflower seeds and nuts out for my squirrels. Three inches of snow have to be cleared before I can lay down six piles of seed to accommodate the squirrels. After our dog died, we started feeding birds off our deck but soon found the squirrels to be more entertaining. The birds still come to the feeder and the overflow trickles down to feed a family of field mice who will come onto the deck once the squirrels have had their fill. I won’t see the bunny today because the storm is intensifying but I take comfort that I’ll see him tomorrow once the snow melts off. He was here earlier though; because I see his tracks crisscross the yard. The ornaments on the Christmas tree and the activity in the backyard scream BEATRIX POTTER. I live in a world she knew.

Beatrix Potter

Helen Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 in London. She is best remembered for her children’s stories featuring animals. As children, she and her brother spent many happy family vacations in Scotland and the English Lake District. Undoubtedly, the freedom to explore and interact with nature as a child grounded Beatrix in the natural world and fostered her connection to the land and its creatures. She and her brother made pets of wildlife including rabbits, a hedgehog, mice, and bats. Beatrix’s talents in drawing and painting emerged in childhood and were encouraged by her parents. In her teens, she wandered the Lake District sketching and immersing herself in nature. She took a keen interest in archeology, geology, entomology, and mycology. By the late 1890s, she had become adept at scientific illustration concentrating on watercolors of local fungi. She even had a paper on fungi reproduction presented at the Royal Botanic Gardens (women were not allowed to attend).


It wasn’t until her mid- 30s that Beatrix took a set of picture letters she had written to children and turned them into her first book. She had The Tale of Peter Rabbit printed in 1901. Publishers turned down the opportunity to publish the book failing to see its merit (think Harry Potter in the Edwardian Age,  JK Rowling was also turned down by multiple publishers). Along came Frederick Warner who published The Tale of Peter Rabbit with color illustrations the following year. Beatrix’s book was highly successful and so were the two (The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester) that came soon after. From then on, Beatrix published two or three books a year. Later her interests in farming and preserving the Lake District became foremost in her life, but she is still remembered fondly for the animal characters and stories she created.



Miss Potter (2006), the movie with Renee Zellweger & Ewan McGregor



  1. yourdaughtersbookshelf · December 20, 2015

    Fabulous post! Beatrix Potter was such a favourite of mine as a child. It is so much fun to revisit her world.


  2. sarahpratley · December 20, 2015

    Thanks for sharing this – so interesting! x



  3. ellisnelson · December 20, 2015

    I love her illustrations!


  4. theorangutanlibrarian · December 20, 2015

    Gosh- I absolutely loved Beatrix Potter when I was younger- Jeremy Fisher and Jemima Puddleduck were my favourites! How bout yours?


  5. Dana Taylor · December 20, 2015

    Fun post! I love your squirrelly friends. I need to pick up a copy of the Potter classic and share it with my grandchildren. Happy holidays!


    • ellisnelson · December 20, 2015

      Yes, that would be fun. I don’t have grandkids so I’m missing out on the beauty of picture books right now. Have a great holiday season, Dana!


  6. Karen DeMers Dowdall · December 29, 2015

    Wonderful. I love Beatrice Potter’s stories!


  7. ljbentley27 · January 2, 2016

    I can’t remember reading Beatrix Potter books as a child. I read the whole collection a few years ago and was actually shocked by the strangeness and at times the violence in them. I’m sorry to say that I am not really a fan. The illustrations are lovely though 🙂 x


    • ellisnelson · January 2, 2016

      I can understand that. There are a lot of fairy tales that are the same way and yet children grew up with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Annette · January 16, 2016

    Wow, I never knew that BP’s first name was actually Helen! And I used to live less than a mile away from Hill Top! Crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. kellyjanemills · January 18, 2016

    Hi Ellis, I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award because your blog is brilliant. Your posts are interesting, varied and who doesn’t love Beatrix Potter?! You can find out about your nomination here: https://thebookshelfblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/the-liebster-award/

    Liked by 1 person

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