- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2002

ATLANTA For 100 years, children have been reading about Peter Rabbit's adventures in Mr. McGregor's garden.
This year marks the centennial of Beatrix Potter's beloved tale of a naughty bunny who ignores his mother's advice and sneaks into a farmer's garden for some free snacks, only to end up with a hard lesson instead.
"The Tale of Peter Rabbit" was the first of 23 books written by the Englishwoman, whose love of drawing and animals combined in the popular books.
"The books were written with children in mind, so they have a directness and a freshness that has withstood the years," said Sally Floyer, managing director of Frederick Warne, the same publishing company that first published the book in 1902.
Miss Floyer said Potter is often credited with producing the first picture book for children.
"She was the first one to link pictures with the text," she said.
Many of Potter's other characters, such as Miss Moppet, Jemima Puddle-duck and the Flopsy Bunnies, have become beloved characters, but none has matched the popularity of Peter, Miss Floyer said.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is recognizing the popular bunny with a multimedia exhibition called Peter Rabbit's Garden.
The exhibit, which runs through May 26, includes storytelling, photos of Potter and her family and a panorama of Potter's famous Hill Top garden in England's Lake District.
But Atlantans can get a taste of Peter's tale a bit closer to home. The Atlanta Botanical Garden has a Peter Rabbit Garden as part of its children's garden. Education Director Tracy McClendon said it's one of their most popular areas.
In the garden, children can squeeze under a white picket fence like Peter did to get into McGregor's garden. They can crawl in a stump like the one where Peter lived and hide in a giant watering can just like Peter. There's even a vegetable garden with a scarecrow of Peter's little blue jacket with the brass buttons and his tiny leather slippers, just like the ones Mr. McGregor found and put out in his storybook garden.
"Children love the garden, and for children who are familiar with the book, it's really a wonderful spot," Miss McClendon said.
Miss Floyer said Potter's books have been reprinted more than 250 times and translated into more than 35 languages.
Today, Potter's characters generate more than $500 million in merchandise and book sales each year.
Although Peter is a fictional character, Miss Floyer said Potter, an animal lover, had a bunny named Peter from 1892 to 1901.
"She always loved and studied animals, and I think that's why her drawings have endured and been so popular," she said. "They're just so lovely."


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