In reviews of children’s books, the term “charming” can be over-used. But when it comes to Beatrix Potter, there is no word more appropos. Beatrix Potter may not have invented “charming” but she certainly perfected it.
Under Potter’s observant eye for detail, she created a host of likable characters, in both word and illustration. From Tom Kitten to Benjamin Bunny, and from Jemima Puddleduck to Timothy Tiptoes, there is not a dud in the bunch. In this review, I hope to promote similar attention to another fellow: the distinguished Mr. Jeremy Fisher.
As you may already know, Mr. Fisher is a frog. But he is not just any frog.
In fact, I have never seen a more handsome frog in children’s literature. His skin tone is pleasantly green, and he is lean and well-kempt. He is a nature-lover, of course, but also looks dapper in a dinner jacket.
Looks aside, what really makes Jeremy Fisher attractive is his personality.
He enjoys simple pleasures such as fishing for minnows. Then, even after an horrific encounter with a stickleback, he is able to regain his composure. Despite a poor fishing day, he concludes his day well, with a good friend and a simple meal. From Jeremy Fisher we learn the virtue of resilience.
Even if there were no “lesson” from this tale, it would be worthwhile simply because it is clever and entertaining. A book for children need not be more. In The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Beatrix Potter has produced the perfect blend of realism and fancy. The creatures are drawn with the accuracy of a naturalist. Yet, of course they wear appropriate clothing.
The writing is just right for children. On one page, author Beatrix Potter uses this term: “ker-pflop-p-p-p”. No thesaurus in the world could have given a better word. On other pages we find intriguing, “grown-up” words such as “enormous” and “disconsolately”. Like Potter’s illustrations, her language itself is a healthy blend of proper and whimsical.
Here is how Potter describes Mr. Fisher’s lodgings:
The water was all slippy-sloppy in the larder and the back passage.
But Jeremy liked getting his feet we, nobody ever scolded him and he never caught a cold!
Any young puddle-jumper can appreciate the dwellings of this frog. At page one, the young reader/listener gets comfortable to hear the rest of the story.
I wish there were more writers today like Beatrix Potter. But there will never be another writer/illustrator such as this esteemed British lady. So, let us endeavor to appreciate the legacy she has left to us, and share with our children and grand-children the remarkable gift she gave to children’s literature.
In addition to Peter Rabbit, I hope your family will also take time to know Mr. Jeremy Fisher.