I loved reading the Mrs Pepperpot stories as a child and they have lost none of their magic now that I am an adult. Mrs Pepperpot has a very peculiar characteristic, she shrinks (without warning) to the size of a pepperpot (hence the name!). I was very excited when I discovered picture book versions of the chapter book stories so that I could introduce her to my daughter. Learning to swim is currently a particularly relevant topic in our house!
The Story: Mrs Pepperpot watches the village children swimming in the pool in the woods and dreams about learning to swim. One day when the pool is empty Mrs Pepperpot decides to try swimming but as she jumps into the water she shrinks! She is saved by a frog who offers to teach her to swim. She learns how to do the breaststroke before watching the tadpoles doing their water acrobatics. She returns to the pool to swim when she has grown back to her normal size and the frog and the tadpoles follow her so she thanks the frog for his lesson.
Alf Prøysen’s stories are set in familiar situations but Mrs Pepperpot’s sudden shrinking adds elements of humour and suspense. The picture book versions are true to the original chapter book stories and although the volume of text has been reduced for younger children they still use the same vocabulary as the chapter book stories which means that my daughter has learnt new vocabulary with the added support of the pictures. I like the fact that the frog also gives subtle pieces of advice to Mrs Pepperpot that are relevant to everybody, e.g don’t jump into a pool if there is nobody with you, practise one thing before you start another (however, I do also find the frog a bit arrogant and patronising!).
I think that this story has been beautifully rewritten for younger children. The blue / green illustrations are perfect for this story and the theme is timeless. There is a gentle humour which appeals to adults as well as children, Mr Pepperpot seems grumpier than I remembered which amuses me more as an adult!
Author: Alf Prøysen / Illustrator: Hilda Offen
My very old copy of Mrs Pepperpot in the Magic Wood was given to me by my aunt. As well as seven Mrs Pepperpot stories there are also two other short stories.