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The Tale of Oat Cake Crag (The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter) by Susan Wittig Albert
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425236611
Date: 07 September 2010 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

It is 1912, Beatrix Potter has returned to Hill Top Farm again. But she's come in just as the villagers are getting exasperated with the new hydroplane being built across Lake Windermere. It's been flying at all hours of the day from sun up to sun down scaring the animals, causing accidents, keeping the children from their naps. Beatrix herself was annoyed by the sound of the engine as she tried to work in her garden. The townspeople are planning a meeting and inviting Mr. Fred Baum, who is funding the plane, to air their grievances.

Beatrix is also paid a visit by Grace Lythecoe. She wants Beatrix to find out who is writing her letters that threaten to cause trouble for the Vicar Samuel Sackett if they continue with their plans to marry. It's not a task that Beatrix wants to take on, especially since she'll learn more about the secrets of the village than she wants to learn.

The animals have a similar plot line. They also dislike the noisy plane and hope that they or the humans can come up with a way to put a stop to its loud buzzing flights. Then there's a birthday to celebrate.

England needs the plane. Germany is building an airforce and Churchill feels England must keep up. There's the rumors of wars to come but in the villages of Near and Far Sawrey more important issues then a maybe war take priority, such as stopping the plane from flying during nap time. On the other hand some of the villages realize that if a war comes, England will need planes. Mr. Baum is hoping that Churchill will comes to see the hydroplane and agree to fund it.

Albert again weaves in all these plot threads to make an interesting story that gives the reader a sense of the time and place. The narrator often gives the readers hints of what has happened before, what may happen now, and what you need to remember from past books in order to understand what's happening now. The narrator may be found intrusive by some readers but I enjoy the feeling of being included in the story as a bystander.

While there is a story line with the animals of the village and the surrounding area, this is a parallel story line and the animals don't talk to the humans or, more exactly, the humans don't understand their speech when they try to communicate with them.

The series is well done and, while each book can stand alone because of the narrator, you will want to read all the books. Albert has woven the story into the life of Beatrix Potter so that none of the story's events change the facts of her life.

The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter is a wonderful series of mysteries that are delightful adventures in a time and place that we only get to visit in these novels.

The book includes: Cast of Characters, Map of the Near Sawrey and Far Sawrey area, Historical Note, Resources, Recipes, and Glossary.

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