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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.

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