Beatrix Potter books get a 21st century makeover

Five of Beatrix Potter’s best-loved children’s books are to receive a makeover this summer, with covers and endpapers created by leading UK and Irish fashion designers including Henry Holland and Orla Keily.

The new covers will be available from July 7, but before any Potter purists out there get in a froth, this isn’t a permanent change, simply a new collection of the titles commissioned as part of publisher Penguin Random House Children’s celebration of 150 years since Beatrix Potter’s birth.

The titles included in the ‘Fashion Designer Collection’ include The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, with cover designed by Henry Holland; The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Orla Kiely; The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by design duo Preen; The Tale of Tom Kitten by pop band-cum-fashion label Rodnik Band; and The Tale of Peter Rabbit by luxury knitwear/street-wear label Cats Brothers.

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The five new covers in the Fashion Designers Collection
The five new covers in the Fashion Designers Collection

The five covers vary enormously in style though what seems obvious is a desire to make Peter Rabbit et al seem cool and youthful in a way that Potter’s original drawings possibly no longer are. “When designing the cover for Peter Rabbit, we started by imagining Peter today – what would he be like?” say Cats Brothers in a text from the designers which is featured on the opening page of the book. “Well he’d be naughty, streetwise and incredibly cool, of course.”

Those familiar with the contemporary TV version of Peter will be used to this jazzing up of Potter’s stories – in that, the young rabbit engages in mischief set to a fast-paced musical backdrop that seems far removed from the quaint atmosphere of the books.

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Endpaper and opening page of The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Endpaper and opening page of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Perhaps today’s children do require something more dynamic to bring them to Potter’s books, though whether parents and others buy them for that reason is up for debate. I can’t help wondering if they remain a go-to purchase because of Potter’s drawings and gentle style rather than in spite of them. Either way, this new collection can in fact tick both boxes, because beyond the cover and endpapers, the central contents of the books remain untouched, with Potter’s delicate drawings and gentle prose still taking centre stage.

The Fashion Designer Collection will be published on July 7 by Penguin Random House Children’s, priced £6.99 each. You can order copies now here.

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