Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Books
8 December 2021updated 09 Dec 2021 1:35pm

Claire Tomalin: Beatrix Potter’s Tom Kitten has everything a good story should have

The first book I remember owning was given to me in 1938 by a nurse in the Homeopathic Hospital.

By Claire Tomalin

This is the first book I remember owning. I was five – it was 1938 – and it was given to me by a nurse in the Homeopathic Hospital in London where I was being treated for an ear infection. That copy disappeared during my wartime childhood but I replaced it somehow and have reread the tale regularly ever since.

Tom Kitten lives with his mother and sisters in a cottage with a garden – where the three kittens get into trouble and manage to shed all their clothes, which fall into the road from the wall they have climbed on to, and are appropriated by some passing ducks. His tale is illustrated with 26 totally wonderful illustrations and has everything a good story should have: a slightly naughty hero, a pretty setting, accidents and punishments and a surprisingly cheerful ending. I can’t imagine any child not being delighted by Tom. In fact I named my own son after him.

The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter (1907)

This article is part of our “The children’s books that shaped us” series. Read more reflections from our writers here.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy


Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up
Topics in this article: