The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson; illustrations by Eleanor Taylor; Frederick Warne & Co./ Imprint of Penguin Young Readers ($19.99). Ages 5 to 6 with a CD read by the author.
Unlike his better-behaved sisters, Peter Rabbit was fond of sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden and feasting on the vegetables. Peter was apt to lose his clothes, was fond of hiding in unlikely places (like a watering can), yet was able to escape the fate that met his poor father (who you might recall was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor).
This hapless, hungry bunny who has been charming children for more than a century (110 years to be exact) returns completely true to form in this “further tale” from Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson whose writing credits include adapting Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” for the screen.
In this new adventure, Peter, longing for a change of scene, sneaks into the McGregors’ garden intending to steal a lettuce but is sidetracked by “an interesting basket smelling of onions,” He climbs in, devours “some excellent sandwiches of cheese and pickle” and falls asleep. After a long, long journey he finds himself in Scotland for a bunny version of the Highland games involving the throwing of heavy things including a giant radish (“it must have measured three rabbits round!”). Thompson has beautifully contrived her tale. Without imitating Potter’s style, Thompson remains true to Potter’s characters, to Peter’s voice and to the original’s gentle charm and sly humor. The new and surprising setting was inspired by the fact that Beatrix Potter spent childhood holidays in Scotland.
Taylor’s lovely illustrations perfectly capture Potter’s characters, and we must applaud her droll portraits of the infamous McGregors.
– Jean Westmoore
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple; Little, Brown (336 pages, $25.99)
If Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” represented the dark heart of the summer literature, Maria Semple’s breezy “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” embodies the sunnier, funnier side.
A satiric take on all things Seattle – Microsoft, ambitious private-school parents, crunchy-granola types, politically correct self-helpers who join groups like Victims Against Victimhood, wild blackberries that ravage the hillsides untamed — the novel is scathing and funny, yet has a surprising generosity toward family dynamics, forgiveness and the burden of genius. It is an absolute delight, and I worry for the reader who isn’t thoroughly enchanted.
A patchwork epistolary novel that includes emails and official documents, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is the narrative of one Bee “Balakrishna” Fox (that “Balakrishna” was a mistake, for the record). Bee is an eighth grader who lives with her Microsoft superhero dad, Elgin, and her manic mom, Bernadette, a formerly famous architect.
Semple, a former TV writer who’s also author of the novel “This One is Mine,” has a flair for satire and screwball high jinks, and she has produced a great gift to avid readers.
– McClatchy Newspapers