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Our Latest Recommendation for Lil’ Sprouts Book Club: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Lil’ Sprouts Book Club is a monthly Garden Collage feature where we spotlight garden- and nature-related books for Lil’ Sprouts age 4 and up. The books are designed to evoke the core mission of Garden Collage: to bring the garden (and nature) into people’s lives.

Despite being one of the oldest licensed characters in the world, Peter Rabbit is still well known and well loved. Coloring books, almanacs, and stuffed animals–even a television show released in 2013–prove that Peter Rabbit is just as engaging and amiable as when he first set out down the lane almost 125 years ago.

Beatrix Potter’s unruly rabbit has gone far and beyond the scope of children’s literature: The Tale of Peter Rabbit has been used in scholarly articles to critically examine clinical nursing practices, properties and boundaries, anthropomorphic brand management, and the psychology of ruthlessness. Few other characters from illustrated children’s book can claim the same long-term socio-cultural influence.

Originally written to comfort and brighten the days of a sick child, Peter Rabbit first appeared on paper 1893, nine years before he would officially be published. Potter, then aged 26, had based her drawings on her pet rabbit Peter, whom she had recently adopted. Potter revisited her earlier writings and, after having her manuscript rejected from several publishers, privately published a black-and-white edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1901. Her private run quickly sold out (one of these original 250 copies was purchased by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his children), and another 200 copies were commissioned. The following year, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published commercially by Frederick Warne & Co., one of the publishers who had initially rejected her work.

Potter’s story of bucolic mischief was an immediate success with the public, selling out the 8,000 copy printing. Over the next 27 years, Beatrix Potter published 23 more “Tales,” introducing Jemima Puddle-Duck, Benjamin Bunny, and many more. Her final children’s book, The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, was published in 1930.

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In her later years, Potter used much of the wealth she had amassed to conserve parts of the English countryside. At the time of her death in 1943, Potter had accumulated nearly 4,000 acres of land, most of which she donated in her will to the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (now known simply as the National Trust).

Potter’s “Tales” can be seen as an extension of her efforts to preserve the English countryside for future generations. Her books–simple and charming–make a remote, disappearing place accessible to children everywhere.

The faint nostalgia in her work speaks to Potter’s abilities as a storyteller: one does not need to have traveled to a quiet, faraway farm to feel at home in Potter’s world. The authenticity and innocence of her stories speak to childhood as a greater, shared experience. The stories she tells are familiar truths of growing up and their familiarity makes them comforting. There is something cathartic in experiencing Peter’s trials and terror, only to have him tucked into bed at the end. As an adult rereading her stories, there is a certain wistfulness to be found among the roots of the fir tree and the cups of chamomile tea.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a book for all ages. For Lil’ Sprouts, it is an exciting story of escape, and for parents it is the chance to pass something on. Like bread and milk and blackberries, Potter’s rascal rabbit continues to be a treat. This month, we honor the book as our staff choice for Lil’ Sprouts Book Club, with some recommended activities, below.

Currant Buns With Chamomile Glaze

DSC_0995Molly Beauchemin

In honor of Peter Rabbit, we present our own twist on a classic recipe. At the beginning of the book, Mrs. Rabbit sets off to purchase brown bread and five currant buns–her departure marks the beginning of Peter’s mischief. The story ends with Peter tucked into bed being served chamomile tea. Below is our recipe for currant buns with chamomile glaze–the perfect snack to accompany tea and a good book.

Currant Buns (makes 12)

  • 2.5 cups of flour
  • 2 packets of active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 5 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1.5 cups of currants
  • butter for greasing

Chamomile Glaze

  • 1/4 cup chamomile blossoms
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup sugar

For the buns, combine flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milk, eggs, and butter. Mix each thoroughly before creating a well in the dry ingredients bowl. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until well combined with a spoon. Place a tea cloth or kitchen towel over the bowl, and allow the dough to sit for at least one hour, preferably in a warm part of the kitchen.

While the dough is rising, boil 1/4 cup of water for the chamomile glaze. Place the chamomile blossoms in a large mug or bowl. Add boiling water to blossoms. Let stand.

After 1 hour, add the currants to the dough and mix them in thoroughly. On a well floured board, turn the dough out and knead for one to two minutes. Then divide the dough into 12 equal parts and place in a well greased cupcake tin. Place damp paper towels over the dough and allow the dough to stand for another thirty minutes.

Heat the oven to 350º F. Remove the damp paper towels and place the cupcake tin in the oven. Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove and allow the buns to cool.

While the buns are cooling, place a 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl for the glaze. Drain the chamomile flowers out of the water. Begin by adding two tablespoons of chamomile water to the sugar and stir until sugar is well mixed. For a thinner glaze, add more chamomile water. When the buns have cooled, drizzle the glaze on top and enjoy!

DIY Recycled Scarecrow

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Delivery and takeout often come with unwanted but unavoidable eating utensils. If they aren’t immediately thrown away, they often sit in a drawer in the kitchen, slowly accumulating alongside packets of soy sauce and stacks of branded napkins. In The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Mr. McGregor gathers the jacket and shoes Peter leaves behind to make a scarecrow for his crops. Here, we have transformed similarly unwanted materials into a mini-scarecrow, one that can guard window boxes or flower pots (just in time for Fall).

For our DIY scarecrow, we used chopsticks as a base structure, the paper bag from some recent takeout to make “hay,” and a chopstick wrapper, which works nicely as a textured shirt.

What you will need:

  • chopsticks (or popsicle sticks or other disposable utensils)
  • thread
  • glue
  • paper (takeout menus, paper bags, etc)
  • scissors

Cut up pieces of paper or napkins for the hay. Bind three or more chopsticks together at the top with thread (just wind the thread together tightly around them). Place the straw for the arms between the chopsticks, directly underneath where the binding is. Once the hay is in place, bind the chopsticks together again underneath the hay. Take one additional chopstick and place it halfway down the bundle. Bind this final chopstick to the bundle with thread.

Clothe your scarecrow however you wish!

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