It's no wonder that I've been after a copy of The Fairy Caravan by Beatrix Potter for so long. Firstly, Beatrix Potter. Need I say more? Secondly, it's a tale about guinea pigs. Third, there is magic afoot in this book!
Every copy I had come across on eBay had been £40 or more, so you can imagine how excited I was to bag this 1952 copy for £2.99, and such a beautiful copy it is too!
A novel at 225 pages long, it was first published in 1929, making it one of Potter's later books. And this was because it was never intended to be published at all:
Through many changing seasons these tales have walked and talked with me. They were not meant for printing; I have left them in the homely idiom of our old north country speech. I send them on the insistence of friends beyond the sea.
there is a town called Marmalade, which is inhabited exclusively by guinea-pigs. They are of all colours, and of two sorts. The common, or garden, guinea-pigs are the most numerous. They have short hair, and they run errands and twitter. The guinea-pigs of the other variety are called Abyssinian Cavies. They have long hair and side whiskers, and they walk upon their toes. Landof Green Ginger
When an attempt by Tuppenny the common guinea pig to grow his hair using a mis-sold elixir goes horribly wrong, he runs away into the big wide world to join the circus, making new friends along the way.
The book is beautifully illustrated by the author, as you would expect, with a combination of watercolour and black and white ink drawings. The story is set in Potter's favourite landscape - the Lake District - like her other stories. It retains its original dialect, to the delight of her intended American audience, who loved her tales of the English countryside.
The book is divided into chapters to form a whole novel, yet each chapter could almost stand alone as a single story in its own right. Fairies are littered throughout the book, and the animal kingdom operates as a society, just like in Potter's more famous tales.
Despite being a very different format to her other tales, I'm so pleased I finally managed to own a copy of The Fairy Caravan because this is Potter as she was when she wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit, writing for her friends and her own entertainment, and not necessarily for publication.
Having been a life-long owner of guinea pigs myself I think she captures their sociable, brave - yet sometimes naive - personalities perfectly, and her love and respect for animals, as always, shines through.
All this talk of guinea pig adventures inspired Alfie to go on one of his own. He was still back by teatime though, as guinea pigs always are.
Do you have a favourite Beatrix Potter story?
Enjoy your Monday!