The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots Beatrix Potter illustration

Newly discovered Beatrix Potter story to be published this year

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots lay undiscovered for 100 years and features an older Peter Rabbit

By Shannon Wilson, 26 January 2016
Newly discovered Beatrix Potter story to be published this year

Beatrix Potter fans rejoice – a new story by the classic children’s author is to be published for the first time this year! The story, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, lay forgotten for over a century and tells the tale of a well-behaved black cat with a double identity. Famous children’s illustrator Quentin Blake, who has illustrated books by authors such as Roald Dahl and David Walliams, will take up the beloved author’s mantel to illustrate the book.

'The tale really is the best of Beatrix Potter - double identities, colourful villains and a number of favourite characters from other tales' - Jo Hanks

The existence of The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots was discovered only two years ago by a publisher at Penguin Random House Children’s Books, Jo Hanks, when she was reading an out of print 1970’s biography. The lost story was mentioned in a letter that Potter had sent to her publisher in 1914 and mentioned the story of 'a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life'. The letter referred to an unedited manuscript of the tale that she was hoping to finish. Ms Hanks went in search of the manuscript in the Victoria and Albert Museum archives in London, which revealed not one but three manuscripts handwritten in school notebooks, a rough colour sketch of Kitty-in-Boots, a dummy book with some of the manuscript laid out and a pencil sketch of arch-villain Mr Tod.

Other letters in the archive show that Potter intended to finish the tale, but kept on being interrupted. From the outbreak of the First World War, to marriage, sheep farming and colds, it wasn’t meant to be. Potter never returned to the story and it remained unfinished when she died in 1943.

The new tale promises to be rewarding for Potter fans, featuring the return of many classic characters.

'The tale really is the best of Beatrix Potter,' said Hanks. 'It has double identities, colourful villains and a number of favourite characters from other tales (including Mr Tod, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Ribby and Tabitha Twitchit)'.

Perhaps most exciting, is the promised return of the much-loved rascal Peter Rabbit – albeit as Hanks puts it, he'll be: 'older, slower and portlier!'

There was never any doubt in who should illustrate the tale, with Hanks saying that Quentin Blake 'had to be' the one to do it.

'It's a challenging brief to illustrate a manuscript written over 100 years ago by one of the world's most beloved authors, but we knew that Quentin's energy, rebelliousness and humour were in keeping with Beatrix's own artistic sensibilities and therefore exactly what this fantastic book called out for.'

Blake himself jumped at the chance. 'It seemed almost incredible when, early in 2015, I was sent the manuscript of a story by Beatrix Potter… I liked the story immediately – it’s full of incident and mischief and character – and I was fascinated to think that I was being asked to draw pictures for it. I have a strange feeling that it might have been waiting for me.'

The publishing date for The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is being scheduled for September to tie in with the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth, and is being published by Potter’s original publisher Frederick Warne & Co (an imprint of Penguin Random House Children’s Books). Why not celebrate in style with your own set of Peter Rabbit Party Supplies or these cute Peter Rabbit talking plush toys from George?

*Images from top to bottom: 1. Beatrix Potter's original rough colour sketch of Kitty-in-Boots, 2.&3. Quentin Blakes illustrations from the upcoming book release