An undiscovered book by Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, is to be published later this year with illustrations by Quentin Blake.
The manuscript was discovered two years ago by Jo Hanks, publisher at PRH Children’s, who found a reference to a story about “a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life” in an out-of-print literary history about Beatrix Potter from the early 1970s.
“It seemed almost incredible when, early in 2015, I was sent the manuscript of a story by Beatrix Potter; one which had lain unpublished for a hundred years and which, with the exception of a single drawing, she had never illustrated,” says Blake. “I liked the story immediately – it’s full of incident and mischief and character –and I was fascinated to think that I was being asked to draw pictures for it. I have a strange feeling that it might have been waiting for me.”
Three manuscripts were found in the V&A archive of many of Potter’s items featuring one rough colour sketch of Kitty-in-Boots. According to Penguin Random House Children’s, which will publish the story, “letters in the archive revealed that Potter intended to finish the tale, but ‘interruptions began’ – and continued: from the beginning of the First World War, to marriage, to sheep farming, to colds. And so she never went back to the story.”
Quentin Blake was the first choice of illustrator to be commissioned for the project. Jo says: “It’s a challenging brief to illustrate a manuscript written over a hundred years ago by one of the world’s most beloved authors, but we knew that Quentin’s energy, rebelliousness and humour were in keeping with Beatrix’s own artistic sensibilities and therefore exactly what this fantastic book called out for.”
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