Don't let this innocent looking book fool you! It's all death and despair right from the get-go when a mother bunny relates with such nonchalant callousness the death of their father to four impressionable young rabbits. One suspects she wasn't all that sad to see the old man go. Perhaps he was beating her.
Love the fantastic illustrations! Sure they border on Kinkadian quaintness and might be too cute for their own good, but without them most of these stories quite frankly never would've been read. Beatrix Potter had a quirky writing style that was adequate most of the time, unexpectedly fun some of the time, and completely useless a time or two. If it weren't for the pictures, at least once or twice the reading would've ground to a "what huh?" halt.
If there's an over-arching theme, aside from "FUZZY BUNNIES! SQUEEEEE!!!!!", it would be that of "Thievery in the world of the common man (or mouse)". Many of Potter's stories revolve around thieving, from petty pilfering to wholesale theft on a grand scale such as in "The Tale of the Tailor of Gloucester". The focal story of the collection, and the story everyone thinks of first, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" is about a young thief eluding a vindictive farmer, who upon failing to capture the little thief creates an effigy using Peter's clothes in which "to frighten the blackbirds," a thinly veiled nod to the farmer's apparent racist attitude towards minorities. In each story the thief occasionally gets their comeuppance, other times they get away with it, and sometimes they are heralded like a Robin Hood for their acts. It's difficult to decipher Potter's stance, but it is clear the crime weighed heavily upon her mind.
NOTE: I decided to write this serious (well, semi-serious) review after realizing my original review lacked much depth and insight.
I love these stories sooooo much!