The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots
Frederick Warne, 2016
72pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
By day, Miss Catherine St Quintin appeared to be a very serious, well-behaved black cat who answered to “Kitty” whenever the kind old lady who owned her called her. The old lady saw a “Kitty” with all the pleasant connotations that that name brings to mind but Miss Catherine St Quintin led a double life.
Becaue by night, when she was supposedly locked in the wash-house, Kitty was not curled up in her basket dreaming sweet dreams until morning. For she was not the purring, nuzzling, gentle cat her owner believed her to be. Known to her more common cat friends as “Q” and “Squintums”, she would leap out the laundry window to be replaced by Winkiepeeps, another black cat who would wait inside until Kitty came home just in case the old lady checked her, while she went hunting dressed in her coat and boots and carrying an air rifle. A female lookalike of Puss-in-Boots.
This particular night she collects her gun from her friend Cheesebox, determined to join Slimmy Jimmy and John Stoat-Ferret as they hunt for rabbits. However, she decides to hunt for mice instead, but being a rather unreliable and careless shooter, that is not is not very fruitful only managing to shoot Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s bundle of washing and some sticks and stones that weren’t mice at all. Sheep and crows seem a better target until they send her scurrying behind a wall in fright and she gets a big surprise when she fires at something coming out of a hole. Unexpectedly she has met up with Slimmy Jimmy and John Stoat-Ferret who take her gun off her. But she refuses to hand over the pellets and so a rather adventurous night involving the ferrets, Peter Rabbit, Mr Tod the Fox and Mrs Tiggy-Winkles begins. Suffice to say, it’s enough to put Miss Catherine St Quintin off hunting for ever.
The story of this story is as interesting as the tale itself. Potter completed the text in 1914 and created just one illustration but the outbreak of World War I and other events meant she never completed the rest. Thus the story went unpublished in her lifetime. Undiscovered until Penguin Random House editor Jo Hanks found it in the Potter archive at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013 and with Quentin Blake accepting the invitation to illustrate it, it has just been published to coincide with what would have been Potter’s 150th birthday.
Fans of her works will be thrilled to share just one more adventure from this prolific creator and delight in the appearance of an older, more portly Peter Rabbit who has lost none of his smarts and wily ways as well as other favourite characters from her other books.
To honour Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday the UK has released a commemorative stamp collection.