Frederick Warne & Co, an imprint of Penguin Random House Children’s, will this September release a previously unpublished children’s story by Beatrix Potter, with new illustrations by Quentin Blake.
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, penned by Potter in 1914, was found by publisher Jo Hanks in the archives of the V&A museum in 2013.
“When I was working with Emma Thompson [on The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit, published in 2014] I read a book by Leslie Linder about Beatrix Potter, and came across a reference to Kitty-in-Boots,” she told The Bookseller. “That led me to the V&A, where many of her writings are archived.”
At the museum Hanks found three manuscripts of the tale, which is about a cat who encounters the villainous fox Mr Tod [from The Tale of Mr Tod] whilst out hunting, along with sketches of Kitty and Mr Tod. "The tale really is the best of Beatrix Potter. It has double identities, colourful villains and a number of favourite characters from other tales - most excitingly, Peter Rabbit makes an appearance, albeit older, slower and portlier."
She said the story, which was probably lost when PRH acquired Frederick Warne & Co in the 1980s, needed only “light editing”, adding: “Beatrix Potter obviously meant to finish the story but things like World War One, getting married and her desire to start running a farm got in the way.”
In an extract from the book in the Telegraph, Kitty, who calls herself “Miss Catherine St. Quintin” is described as wearing “a gentleman’s Norfolk jacket, and little fur-lined boots”.
When she goes hunting at night (when Winkiepeeps another, scruffier cat takes her place at home) she is pleased when Mrs Tiggy-Winkle calls her “Sir” and is “rather flattered to be mistaken for a sportsman”.
Hanks said PRH chose Blake [picture left] as the illustrator because, even though he has a very different style to Potter, “he understands the rebelliousness of animal characters and doesn’t patronise children, which was one of Potter’s bugbears”.
PRH waited until 2016 to publish to fit in with the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth, she added.
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots will be published in a jacketed hardback format in the UK, US, Canada and Australia in September, priced at £12.99.
PRH is currently in negotiations with a number of European publishers and is not planning on launching a range of merchandise, although it is open to the idea of film or TV deals, said Hanks.