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The Tale of Holly How by Susan Wittig Albert
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0425206130
Date: 05 July, 2006 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The Tale of Holly How starts with Beatrix Potter's return to Near Sawrey in July of 1906. Mr. Biddle is supposed to be working on the new addition to Hill Top Farm's house so that Beatrix can live in the house and the Jennings can have the new addition. However, Mr. Biddle doesn't like taking orders from a woman. A badger digger has captured a mother badger and her daughter from their sett at Hill Top Farm. Jeremy Crosfield finds the injured young male badger and takes him to the vet for treatment. Lady Longford demands that the school board appoint her choice for head teacher overlooking Miss. Nash while ignoring her own granddaughter who, after the death of her parents, now lives in Tidmarsh Manor. Then when Beatrix and Mr. Jennings go to pick up the Herdwick sheep, they find Ben Hornby at the bottom of a small cliff -- murdered.

All these threads come together in ingenious ways as the humans and animals of the story get involved to solve the various mysteries. We learn more of the village and its culture and secrets. Characters introduced in The Tale of Hill Top Farm return and are given more depth and interest. We see friendships developing and Beatrix blooming with the responsibilities she has taken on to make something of her farm and her part-time life in Near Sawrey. She's becoming part of the village landscape and as readers, we get to vicariously enjoy her growth as she moves from outsider to one of 'them'.

There's more than one mystery to be solved; however, Albert handles the many threaded narrative deftly and we get to enjoy the points of views of humans and animals again as they work toward common goals of protecting their loved ones and maintaining the safety of the community in which they live.

While fanciful because of the intermixing of dialogue between animals along with the more expected human narrative, the book is a wonderful break from reality. It entertains and puzzles us with mysteries to be solved but it also gives us a look into a world that was -- that small village community that perhaps in a way we wish we could visit. Here's your chance to steep yourself in that mileau while enjoying a break from the routine of your daily life. Read and close the book refreshed in spirit as well as mentally satified.

Book also contains a Historical Note, Resource Reading List, and recipes for Sarah Barwick's Lemon Bars, Mrs. Lythecoe's Recipe for Rhubarb and Raspberry Tart, Mrs. Beeton's Veal and Ham Pie - Recipe No.898, Cumberland Sausage Rolls, and Lady Longford's Favorite Ginger Cake.

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