The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Voices in the Park were published at either end of the twentieth century, a period which witnessed the creation of the modern picturebook for children. They are both extremely prestigious examples of picturebooks of their type, the one very traditional, the other surrealist and postmodern. The definition of ‘picturebook’ used here is Bader’s: ‘an art form [which] hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning of the page’ (Bader, quoted in Montgomery, 2009, p. 211). In contrast with a simple illustrated book, the picturebook can use all of the technology available to it to produce an indistinguishable whole, the meaning and
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89). The story is focalised through a didactic narrative voice, which takes on the judgemental characteristics of parent or teacher; Peter, for example, is ‘very naughty’ while his siblings are ‘good little bunnies’ (Potter, 2009, pp. 16-19). However, as the text is separated physically from the pictures, so the story told in words is separate and frequently undermined by the illustration, echoing what Moebius terms the ’plate tectonics of the picturebook…’ (Moebius, 2009, p.313). The cumulative effect of these is a book which endeavours to communicate with its young audience in a far more complex fashion than the tone of the narrative suggests.
In contrast to the text, the illustrations are complex and suggestive of subversive meaning. As Scott writes, Potter intensifies the reader’s identification with Peter by setting the perspective of her characters low in her illustrations, so they look her young audience in the eye (2009, p.104). The effect of this is almost conspiratorial - when Mrs Rabbit warns her children not to walk into Mr McGregor’s garden, the facing page shows Peter with his back turned to her, intent on mischief, staring out of the page. Here, Potter demonstrates, as Mackey writes ‘a command of the page turn which has rarely been bettered’ (2009, p. 93). Between Mrs Rabbit’s warning and Peter’s inevitable race to Mr McGregor’s