Soft Spot for Americans, Endorsed by Rabbits and Puddle-Ducks

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Amherst, MA: Whoa, those of you who think that Potter in children's books means only Harry. There is another Potter in the field, by the name of Beatrix (1866-1943), and that Harry character has a long way to go before topping her more than 100 years of success. Her "Tale of Peter Rabbit," first published in 1902, is still picking up new readers.

Although her cutesies - like Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter - may not have gone to wizard school, they bring as much mischief and adventure to the pre-kindergarten crowd as Harry and his playmates do to their older brothers and sisters.

As might be expected, there is a Beatrix Potter Society; founded in 1980 to promote the study of Potter's life and work, it has some 800 members around the world. The society wanted to have its 25th annual conference this year in conjunction with a Potter show. Enter the new-ish Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art here, a first-rate children's exhibition center that was approached by the society almost before its opening, in 2002. It was founded by Mr. Carle, himself a famous children's book illustrator.

A result is "Beatrix Potter in America," a show of original artwork and other Potter ephemera from American collections. The exhibition was paid for in part by the society, which held its three-day conference at the museum earlier this month.

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