Emma Thompson's new twist on an old classic

Emma Thompson talks about her work on "The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit," which comes out Sept. 30.

Children have long loved Emma Thompson's movies. Now, they can enjoy her stories. Credit: Nick Haddow Children have long loved Emma Thompson's movies. Now, they can enjoy her stories.
Credit: Nick Haddow

 

Emma Thompson has done her fair share of children's story-telling through film. Now, she's exploring that passion in a new way, through children's books. Lately, Thompson has beenabsorbed with her latest project, expanding Beatrix Potter's beloved Peter Rabbit stories.She started writing Peter Rabbit stories a few years ago (they're "inspired by" the original stories), and her latest effort, “The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit,” comes out Sept. 30. In it, Peter and Benjamin Bunny take a trip to the fair, with all kinds of hijinks ensuing. Thompson took some time to share a few thoughts about the world of Peter Rabbit.

 

 

Why she likes the Peter Rabbit series:
I like his flawed, humane qualities. I mean, he’s naughty, but within reason, and it’s the way in which he learns things. It’s so enchanting. There’s just nothing twee or whimsical about Peter Rabbit or any of those books. The writing is so beautiful and specific and muscular and full of fantastic words. I learned so much from it when I was growing up.

 

What she thinks makes a great children’s book:
A willingness to entertain the darkness in life. Obviously without making it too dark or too unpalatable, too close to what inevitably will be found out later in life. ... There are fears and there are dangers that we all have to face. And I think [Potter] is absolutely wonderful at writing about that without scaring us too much, but just enough to make it completely delicious.

On why people write children’s literature:
It seems to me, not to be too psychoanalytical about it, that many great children’s writers write things for the age that they were when they were wounded. It’s a form of self-soothing and because it’s absolutely necessary. Nobody writes unless they have to, because it’s so hard to get it right. You have to address the part inside you that most needs to be heard.

Why she decided to write the books:
It’s a continuation of [Potter]'s spirit, I suppose, in some way, but it’s really for Peter. He was the one who wrote to me. He wrote me a letter saying will you please write me another tale? I’d never have done it if I’d been asked in a less imaginative way. And I thought, why not have a go.

If you go
Book signing and reading
Oct. 2, 6 p.m.
Barnes and Noble Tribeca
97 Warren St., New York
Free, 212-587-5389
www.barnesandnoble.com

 
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