NARRATION: Beatrix Potter video
A sample narration by an 11-year-old girl
Note from the Editor: Narration is assimilating information and retelling it — it’s a simple, yet powerful, educational technique that can be used in all school subjects and experiences. We often think of narrating books, but our children can also narrate field trips, movies, or anything we want them to retain.
The following narration was done orally into a tape recorder by an eleven-year-old girl after watching a detailed educational video about the life of Beatrix Potter (author and illustrator of the original Peter Rabbit books).
This child’s mother played the tape back and typed up the narration to keep in her daughter’s school notebook. I think you’ll be able to see how easily oral narration translates into a written form. I’ve always believed that writing is simply speaking out loud on paper (with a few more rules). Too often we find ourselves so caught up in the mechanics of composition, we consequently lose the feel for how to relate and communicate through our written words.
When I teach writing workshops, one thing I always stress over and over again is, “Don’t ‘write’! Just ‘talk’!”
Also, notice the amount of nature study and nature journaling Miss Potter did as a child. She’s definitely a testimony to the wonderful effects of nature observation in a child’s early life.
Beatrix Potter — Artist, Storyteller and Country Woman (Videotape)
–Video viewed and narrated by Kelsey (age 11)
Beatrix Potter was a frail little girl. She couldn’t play with the other kids because her parents were worried about germs spreading, so she entertained herself by drawing and studying Nature. She didn’t get to see much of her mom and dad — she stayed in the nursery with a governess who watched her. She was home schooled by her governess.
When she was ten, she could draw pictures that looked almost real. That’s really good for someone only ten. When she was older, her family got a microscope and she used it to look at bugs and flowers, and then drew them while looking through the microscope.
Her and her little brother, Bertram, would go and get animals and bring them home. Then she would draw them. They had a turtle, a bunny, and a mouse. She liked to sketch pictures of the animals. She liked to draw pictures of the scenery from different windows. Her family would take vacations out to Scotland and she would draw the scenery. Her drawings were very pretty.
She had a journal and she used a code in it. She used different letters than we use so people couldn’t read it. Only just a little while ago people were able to crack the code.
She had the fashions and hair things from that time. She thought they were uncomfortable. I think the fashions looked old — like from long, long, long ago.
She was very pretty when she was a girl. I think she looks kind of sad in the pictures, and lonely because she didn’t have anyone to play with except her brother. When Bertram was older, they would go and pick flowers and bring them back and study them and draw pictures of them. Bertram loved to draw, too.
When she got older, on Christmas she would make Christmas cards and draw the fronts of them with pictures of rabbits because she had a pet rabbit named Benjamin Bouncer and she liked to draw pictures of him. One time a friend saw the pictures and told her that she should take them to a publisher and have them made into real Christmas cards. She wasn’t sure if they would like her drawings, but the publisher liked them a lot and sent her a check in the mail asking for more drawings. That would be fun! I think she was excited. I would be excited if someone liked my pictures that much.
Later she wanted to write books. She had written letters to some kids about the stories of Peter Rabbit and some other stories. She borrowed back the letters and took the letters and turned them into real stories with pictures. She started the first one called Peter Rabbit. She wanted to do the pictures in black and white. But none of the publishers wanted them in black and white because they weren’t quite as attractive. They wanted colorful pictures.
Beatrix kept looking for a publisher that wanted black and white pictures, but they only wanted colored pictures so they could sell more books. Finally she decided to print and publish the book on her own. It was a good idea, but it didn’t work all that well.
A friend of hers told her that the stories should rhyme and have verses. So her friend took the words and made funny little verses out of them. I didn’t like those very much. They didn’t seem very professional, but Beatrix’s are very fun to read and they make sense. Her friend’s way, I think, was twaddle. I don’t think people would’ve liked her books very much if they were like that — they would’ve only liked the pictures.
A publishing company said they liked the books but wanted them without the rhyming verses. They also wanted the pictures in color. Finally Beatrix agreed and she started to do the pictures over again. At first she didn’t want to because the pictures would be just brown and green — pictures of bunnies and gardens. But the pictures looked nice when she was done.
After the first book, she started to write other books. And then she had a lot of books. These are a few of the books she wrote: The Tale of Jeremy Fisher, The Tale of Two Bad Mice, Little Pig Robinson, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Mrs. Tittle-Mouse, and lots more.
There was a publisher and he liked her. They were good friends. After awhile he asked her to marry him. She said yes, but her mom and dad disagreed. They said because she was the only girl, she had to stay home and care for her parents. I think she should’ve been able to get married if she wanted to. She was an adult. But finally they were going to get married, but just a few weeks after they got engaged the man she was going to marry died of a disease. She was very sad. It was very hard for her.
She started to write some more books. She wrote about three a year. She wrote Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle a little bit after he died. She had a pet hedgehog that she used for drawing pictures for the book. She drew the hedgehog from many different angles. I think it would be fun to be one of her pets because I’d get to have drawings of me in her books.
She had a bunny name Peter and she used him for her pictures, too. She liked to draw him a lot. A while later in her life, she met a man and they were friends for a long while and he asked her marry him. Later she made enough money from her books to buy a farm. She bought one farm, and pretty soon she had a lot of farms. She had lots of sheep and pigs and other farm animals. She liked to draw the pigs, but sometimes they would chew on her boots. It was very disruptive. I don’t think it would be too helpful if I was drawing and a pig was chewing on my boots.
She had a book with different rhymes. They were good rhymes. She used the pictures from her old sketch books with the rhymes. The publisher liked that book a lot and they asked her to write another one. She did write another one and decided to have new pictures. One of the pictures was of a mouse making cider, which was something like beer, but the publisher asked her to redraw it because they thought it wouldn’t be good for little children. So she had to redraw it. It looked very nice when she was done.
World War One came and it was hard for her to get help with the sheep on the farm because the men had to go off and fight. She was elected the first president of the local sheep society and she was a judge for their contests.
She had a pretty farm. I’d like to live there. I think she died a little bit before World War Two. She had said that she wanted her farm to stay the same way it had been and not to turn into a bunch of houses or a development. She left thousands of acres of land to the government if they would keep it the same way it was when she was alive and running it. She wanted sheep there. Lots of sheep. You can go there now-a-days and see it, and it’s not very different from how it was when she lived on it.
When she was 77-years-old, she caught a bad cold that turned into bronchitis. She died in the winter during the month of December.
I thought her life was very different from what I had pictured. I had pictured her living in a very different place. I thought things might have been easier for her, but things seemed rather hard. Her life was very fulfilling with all the things she did. She wrote lots of books, she drew lots of pictures, she was a farmer, she had thousands of acres of beautiful land, she had lots of animals, and she gave a gift to all of us because of writing her books. Kids can read her books and people can go and see the land where she lived, and the sheep that she loved.
I like her books. My favorite was Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter inspires me to draw more in my Nature Notebooks and to work on my spelling and writing.
SUBMITTED BY: Kelsey and her mom 🙂
For more information on Beatrix Potter’s fascinating life, check out these books:
- Beatrix Potter’s Journal (includes a copy of Peter Rabbit)
- Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places that Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales
- Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature