Beatrix Potter (& the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig)

Today I’m very excited to share Deborah Hopkinson’s latest book, Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. I’m a big fan of Deborah’s nonfiction work and her new picture book is simply delightful!


So what did I love so much about this book?

– First off, the facts in this story about Beatrix’s childhood are incredibly interesting. For example, did you know Beatrix named her first pet rabbit Benjamin Bouncer? Or that she collected a wide variety of pets as a young girl including a duck, frog, canary, snake, as well as a variety of hedgehogs, newts, salamanders, lizards, rabbits, and more?

– Also, the book is surprising (to say the least!) When I first opened this gorgeous book I expected a sweet story with a sweet ending about Beatrix Potter, the renowned author of the adorable Peter Rabbit stories. But I soon discovered it was not going to be a predictable pet tale with a happy ending, as the author warns the reader right from the beginning — “But the sad truth is that although Beatrix loved animals, she did not always have the best of luck with them.” Such a great line! And the perfect setup for the “unfortunate” event that befalls a regal guinea pig named Queen Elizabeth.


– This title also has marvelous voice. It’s warm, winsome, and spot on. Periodically, the author addresses the reader directly, such as in her compelling first line — “My Dear Reader, This is a story about a girl named Beatrix Potter and what happened when she borrowed her neighbor’s guinea pig.”

– The book is well-researched. As a nonfiction author I like to share a lot about my research with readers, so I tend to be obsessed with backmatter pages. The Author’s Note shares many fascinating details, such as the fact that the story is based on Beatrix Potter’s own journal, and the best part — the text includes actual entries from her journal. This note also describes how Beatrix used a secret code when she wrote in her journal to keep her writing private. Many years later her secret code was cracked, and the entries in her journal were published in a book in 1966. The backmatter pages also explain that some of the dialogue was invented, and Beatrix’s age was changed, so readers can discover all the facts behind this “mostly true” story.

– And last, the pen and watercolor illustrations by Charlotte Voake are magnificent. The fresh colors and adorable scenes are perfect for Beatrix!

So I know you’re dying to read this book. Well, I was fortunate enough to score an advance copy of this delightful picture book (published by Schwartz & Wade Books), but don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long.

Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig releases soon — Feb. 2, 2016!


Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at:


  1. Oh, yes. I definitely want this one, Suzanne.
    Why is this the first I’ve heard of it?! THANKS for the heads up.

  2. I love Deborah Hopkinson’s books and the lively voice she brings to all her subjects. And Charlotte Voake, too? About Beatrix? Wow! Just reserved it from the library. Thanks, Suzanne!

  3. DEFINITELY on my gotta read when it comes out list (which is gonna be a mile long VERY soon!). Totally intrigued and interested.

  4. This sounds fascinating!!! And Charlotte Voake is one of my favorite illustrators!
    Thanks for sharing this delightful title with us!

  5. I have never heard of this one. It’s a MUST have. An “I gotta buy it,” Robyn said. Thanks for the post on it.

  6. I will be on the look out for this one! Thanks for the heads up.

  7. Sounds like a MUST read! Looking forward to its release.

  8. Definitely adding this to my want-to-read book list. It looks like a great mentor text for non-fiction as well as a fascinating read. I’m with Linda, I am intrigued by About Beatrix…going to reserve it right away. Thanks for sharing!

    • The interesting thing about this bio. is that it’s not straight nonfiction, and the author shares in the Author’s Note the certain items that are fiction (dialogue) or slightly changed for the story (Beatrix’s age). So a unique, lovely story!

  9. I have been waiting with bated breath for this book! You’re taunting me, Suzanne! Seriously, thank you for this, can’t wait!

  10. How wonderful! I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Thanks for featuring this book! Yes–a must!

  12. Can’t wait to read it. I have a DVD on Beatrix Potter and watch it at least once a year. Her story is inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thank you for this thoughtful, wonderful review, Suzanne! It is an honor to be included.

    If anyone wishes to read more on the background of this “guinea pig crisis,” and how I came to write it, my local paper in Oregon did a fun story:

    Hope the link works. For anyone interested in Beatrix Potter, follow the hashtag #Beatrix150 to hear about anniversary happenings in the UK especially, including a special Beatrix 50p coin.

  14. This book looks like a must have. So excited to read it! (and study it, sounds like a great mentor text too.)

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