Entertainment & Arts

Dame Helen Mirren to narrate Beatrix Potter story

Dame Helen Mirren Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dame Helen will narrate the story Kitty-in-Boots which is being recorded and published as part of celebrations to mark Beatrix Potter's 150th birthday

Dame Helen Mirren will lend her voice to a recording of a new story by celebrated children's author Beatrix Potter, rediscovered after 100 years.

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots will be the actress's first audiobook recording when it is released in September.

It tells the story of the "well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life" as a crime-fighter.

The manuscript was found two years ago by Jo Hanks from the publishing company Penguin Random House.

Ms Hanks came across the story of Kitty-in-Boots by chance in 2013 after reading an out-of-print history of Potter.

Image copyright Frederick Warne & Co
Image caption Kitty-in-Boots [original illustration] comes across the villain fox Mr Tod whilst out hunting

It referenced a letter the author had sent her publisher in 1914 in which she talked about the cat's adventure.

Ms Hunt then looked in the archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and found three unedited manuscripts of the story, two in children's school notebooks and one typed, along with a rough sketch of Kitty-in-Boots and the villainous fox Mr Tod.

Image copyright Random House
Image caption Quentin Blake has illustrated the anniversary stories

In the story, Kitty-in Boots encounters Mr Tod whilst out hunting at night.

The tale also features Peter Rabbit, himself one of Potter's most famous characters, and another Potter favourite, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.

"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," Ms Hanks told The Bookseller.

The audiobook will be released on 1 September, alongside a hardback book, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots and Other Stories, illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake.

Sir Quentin was chosen because "he understands the rebelliousness of animal characters and doesn't patronise children, which was one of Potter's bugbears", Ms Hunt said.

The book will be published by Frederick Warne & Co, Potter's original publisher. and is part of this year's celebrations of the author's 150th birthday.

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