The manuscript for this amusing story by Beatrix Potter lay hidden, unpublished for 100 years. Apart from a single drawing, there were no illustrations for it either when it arrived on famous illustrator Quentin Blake’s desk in 2015. It is said that Beatrix Potter was simply too busy to finish this story.
“Miss Kitty” is a ‘serious, well-behaved young black cat’ with glowing green eyes who has the insatiable desire to go hunting at night – with an airgun. But how will she escape the washer room, sedately clean, where she has been locked by her kindly owner each night?
She does this by swapping places with another identical black cat who takes her place and no-one is any the wiser in the morning.So Miss Kitty transforms into safari suit, fur-lined boots, and air gun, leaps out the washer room window and is ready for an adventure! But she then gets over-excited, becomes a fellow ‘poacher on the sly’ with unsavoury characters and does all the wrong things, making mistakes wherever she goes. Clearly she does not know how to use an air-gun, nor does she really have any idea about who or what to poach. Despite this she is full of kitty attitude: “Miss Kitty replied with a very painful scratch across both their faces. She also spat at them.” p.34.
Mr Tod, the fox, soon catches her in his trap and then it is a long wait overnight with soreness and pins and needles in her feet, till someone kind releases her.
Having grown up with Quentin Blake’s illustrations I feel his pictures work perfectly in this story.
An enjoyable read from an era of British country living now almost gone and certainly very different from today. Enjoy the humour and familiar characters like Mrs Tiggy-winkle.
Jane Fagan is a children’s librarian with a B.A. (University of Melbourne) and Grad. Dip LIbrary and Info Studies (Melbourne).