In 1914, Beatrix Potter completed another addition to her range of children’s books, entitled ‘The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots’. To this day, we don’t know the exact reasons why ‘Kitty’ wasn’t published, but the manuscript lay gathering dust in the V&A Museum archives until last year, when it was discovered by Penguin Random House publisher Jo Hanks, after she came across a reference to it in an out-of-date Potter biography. Keen to publish the story, for which Potter had completed just one drawing, Hanks commissioned Quentin Blake to illustrate the book.
The pictures that Blake subsequently produced are now on display at the House of Illustration; I went to see them today. I wasn’t sure what to expect – after all, these illustrations were created over 100 years after the book was written, and Blake has a style of drawing that is as unique to him as Beatrix Potter’s was to her. I needn’t have worried, however, The illustrations are colourful, mischievous and witty – each one impeccably captures the spirit of Beatrix Potter’s work, and I am sure that she would have loved them. What’s particularly clever about them is that, while they are immediately identifiable as Quentin Blake illustrations, the story they are telling is very evidently a Beatrix Potter one. Together, they form the perfect tribute to one of the world’s best-loved children’s authors, by one of its best-loved illustrators – there could be no better combination.