The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit Book Poster Image
Peter's adventure at village fair is best yet of new tales.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Stimulating vocabulary to inspire love of language; could spark interest in Beatrix Potter's classic Peter Rabbit tales.

Positive Messages

Curiosity can lead to adventure, discovery, and fun. It also can lead to danger. Good friends will help. Your mother will try to protect you and give you good advice, and she will love you when you come home, no matter what mischief you find. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Peter is very kid-like: curious about new, exciting things and adventurous but not always able to control his impulses. His cousin Benjamin Bunny is a loyal friend who comes to his rescue. Mrs. Rabbit is wise and loving, even when Peter gets into mischief.

Violence & Scariness

Peter is captured and stuffed into a bag; not a malicious act, but the little girl looks pretty mean when she's chasing after her escaping "toy."

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit is the third in Emma Thompson's series of Peter Rabbit books and is the best one yet. Thompson grew up loving Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit stories and wanted to give the mischievous little bunny a few new adventures. Those who've read the Potter classics will recognize the story line: The lovable Peter lets his curiosity get the best of him. He goes where he has been warned not to go and narrowly escapes danger. In the end, he gets home to his mother, who tucks him into bed after a bath and a little warm milk with nutmeg. This particular adventure happens at a country fair in the Lake District in England, and that's reflected in the descriptions, dialogue, and illustrations. The artwork, though less delicate than Potter's, is a magical mix of cuteness and realism created in beautiful, translucent watercolors. An audio CD of the story read by Thompson accompanies the hardcover edition.  

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What's the story?

Though his mother warns him to stay away from the traveling fair with its "feckless, shifty" characters, Peter and his more conservative cousin Benjamin Bunny cannot help themselves. Their sense of adventure lures them toward the music, games, and fun. The cousins squeeze through a hole in the fence and are immediately caught up in the excitement -- and danger. Before he knows it, Peter has been scooped up by a young fairgoer who stuffs him in her bag and carries him away to ride the roller coaster. Luckily, Benjamin Bunny tracks him down, and the two narrowly escape back to their burrow, where a kindly Mrs. Rabbit bathes them and puts them to bed with cups of hot milk and nutmeg. Peter's only regret is that his cousin saved him before he got to ride on the merry-go-round. 

Is it any good?

THE SPECTACULAR TALE OF PETER RABBIT is just that: a spectacular tale. This charming original does what it set out to do: It continues the Peter Rabbit saga more than 100 years after Beatrix Potter first enchanted readers with her creations. Thompson"s quaint vocabulary and musical language is complemented by Eleanor Taylor's watercolor artwork. Together they create a style and tone reminiscent of Potter's classic tales and tell a story that is engagingly humorous and unique.

Kids will relate to the curious, lovable little bunny and will want to read more about his mischievous adventures. And, if they haven't already read them, they'll want to hear all the old stories, as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Peter's curiosity gets him into trouble, what helps him escape, and how his mother treats him when he gets back home. Can you think of other characters whose curiosity gets them into trouble? How about Jack and the Beanstalk, Curious George, or Fancy Nancy? How do their stories compare to Peter's? 

  • How does the Peter Rabbit in this story compare to the Peter Rabbit in Beatrix Potter books? How is he the same character? How is he different? Do you like one better than the other?

  • Do you think Benjamin Bunny would have gone to the fair without Peter? Do you think Mrs. Rabbit was right to tell them not to go? Do you think Peter learned a lesson? 

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