Friday, September 11, 2020

Meet Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter, Scientist
by Lindsay H. Metcalf; illus. by Junyi Wu
32 pages, ages 4-8
Albert Whitman & Company, 2020

theme: biography, STEM, nature

You may know this girl, or who she’ll become…

Maybe you remember Beatrix Potter’s tales and illustrations of Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and that rascally Peter Rabbit… those Two Bad Mice. But there’s more to Potter’s story than writing stories.

Did you know she collected hedgehogs, newts, and mice and drew detailed illustrations of these “pets?” Way cooler: she studied – and drew – fungi! She studied them under the microscope and even did some experiments, writing a paper about germinating mushroom spores. But when the scientific community ignores her discoveries, Beatrix tucks away her scientific paintings and begins drawing pictures of her bunny, Peter. The rest is history – or rather, herstory.

What I like about this book: Beatrix loves nature, and is lucky enough to find an adult to mentor her. Lindsay Metcalf shows us how serious Beatrix is about studying fungi. She turns the kitchen into a lab. She tries to present her discoveries to other scientists, but she’s got two strikes against her: she’s an amateur and she’s a woman.

And of course, I like that there’s back matter. Lindsay includes more details about Beatrix’s life, and a timeline. She also includes a fun list of books kids can read to learn more about Beatrix Potter.

 I caught up with Lindsay by email to ask her One Question:

Archimedes: Beatrix Potter loved fungi. Do you have a favorite group of organisms that you like to observe?

Lindsay: I am an equal-opportunity observer of all life in my backyard, especially since we aren’t traveling during the pandemic. I love spying through binoculars on the family of Mississippi kites roosting on dead branches across the street. I smile each time I witness butterflies drinking up my zinnias. And I reserve a ringside seat on my porch for every neighborhood hummingbird fight. (They can be aggressively zippy.) It’s fun to listen as the squirrels argue, chitter, and chase. I look for snail trails in the garden and pill bugs under rocks, marveling at how on earth these tiny crustaceans evolved to live on land. And I love to zoom in on the magical hidden world of lichens like Beatrix Potter might have, but I get to use my cell phone’s camera lens. I’ll bet she’d be amazed at that.

Beyond the Books:

Listen to the Science Friday podcast, “The Scientific Tale of Author Beatrix Potter

You can download an activity guide for the book here

Beatrix Potter loved to draw her pets and fungi. What would you like to draw? Grab some sketching paper and pencils and sketch a plant or animal that you are particularly interested in. Do you learn anything about this organism as you draw it?

Head over to Growing With Science to read what my colleague and fellow STEAM-teamer Roberta has to say about the book!

Lindsay is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. You can find out more about her at her website.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. ARC provided by the publisher.


  1. Thank you so much for featuring BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST!

  2. This is a really fun biography of Beatrix Potter. I'm glad you featured it! Great review, Sue.

  3. Wow! I didn't know any of this fun information about Beatrix Potter. The biography sounds wonderful!