Have you ever received a letter that meant so much to you that you read it over and over, memorized it, and kept it close by to read when you needed laughter or encouragement? My Dear Noel (ages 4-8) is a story about a letter written by Beatrix Potter to a young boy who was very ill; this letter became more than just a cherished memento. Written in story form and accompanied by drawings, this treasured letter ultimately became the beloved story The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the first in a series of stories written by Potter.
Young children can relate to this true story about a real little boy, his family, their friend Beatrix Potter, and her animals. The book is just the right length for young wiggle worms with short attention spans. Johnson's words are carefully chosen, and her sentences are short enough for young readers to tackle independently. Adults reading to children will find several excellent opportunities to compare life in the 1890s with life in the 1990s (for example, differences in clothing worn then and now), and to discuss the importance of friendship.
The illustrations are rendered in pen and ink and watercolor, reminiscent of Potter's. A unique feature of the book cover is the facsimile of the original letter sent to Noel Moore on the front endpapers. The back endpapers are the same letter, but have been cleaned for clarity and the pages arranged in correct reading order.
My Dear Noel is a timeless book; children all over the world still read and love the stories of Beatrix Potter. A new story board book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit (F. Warne &and Co., $6.99, 0723244324), would be an ideal companion to My Dear Noel. After all, this famous tale of a naughty rabbit's adventures might never have been written if not for the strong friendship between Beatrix Potter and a five-year-old boy who desperately needed gifts of laughter and encouragement.
Cynthia B. Drennan, Ed.
D., is a retired college administrator and music teacher.