New in this week, I have acquired 30 'Little Grey Rabbit' books by Alison Uttley with illustrations by Margaret Tempest, then later by Katherine Wigglesworth. Originally published between 1929 and 1975 these gentle tales of rural domesticity, with their delightful illustrations of rabbits, hedgehogs, moles and other animals of the British countryside, summon up a bygone age and are sometimes compared to the animal tales of Beatrix Potter. There is a book to celebrate almost every season and event in the calendar year. from Valentine's Day and Easter to Guy Fawkes and Christmas.
Alison Uttley (1884-1976) was born Alice Jane Taylor in Cromford, Derbyshire. A complex character by all accounts, according to Denis Judd in his biography of the author, she supported herself and her son after the death of her husband in 1930, through her writing. Her first book, 'The Squirrel, the Hare and the Little Grey Rabbit' was published by Heinemann in 1929, followed by another three titles with this publisher, 'How Little Grey Rabbit Got Back Her Tail' (1930), 'The Great Adventure of Hare' (1931) and The Story of Fuzzypeg the Hedgehog (1932). There then followed 31 titles in the series published by Collins, the last five of which are illustrated by Wigglesworth.
I have fond memories of these books from my own childhood, including 'Squirrel Goes Skating' (1934), a Christmas present from an Aunt who bought many books I came to treasure. Some of my favourite parts in this book include the mouth-watering descriptions of their meals (actually many of my favourite parts of books include food and there are lots of examples in children's books!). Breakfast is 'hot tea and thick buttered toast, and carrot sausages'; a table is laid for their return consisting of 'herb pie, an apple tart, some jam puffs, and cob-nut cutlets', but when an unexpected visitor snaffles all the goodies, Mole brings a basket of 'a dozen eggs, some buttered tea-cakes, a Bakewell tart, and a cranberry jelly, some raspberry jam and dandelion sandwiches and a big plum cake with icing on the top' and a bottle of Primrose wine to wash it all down. They certainly ate well!
As well as the 'Little Grey Rabbit' series, which included a book of plays and a painting book, Uttley also created a number of other children's books, including the 'Sam Pig' books, the 'Little Brown Mouse' tales of Snug and Serena, the 'Tim Rabbit' books and the 'Little Red Fox' series. To purchase these or similar books visit our website:
For more information on Alison Uttley and her work the following resources may be useful:
JUDD, Denis (Ed). The Private Diaries of Alison Uttley
JUDD, Denis. Alison Uttley: Spinner of Tales (later as Alison Uttley: Creator of Little Grey Rabbit)
SAINTSBURY, Elizabeth. The World of Alison Uttley
The Alison Uttley Society: www.alisonuttley.co.uk