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First edition cover

The Tale of Tom Kitten is a children's book, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was released by Frederick Warne & Co. in September 1907. The tale is about manners and how children react to them.


The tale begins with three feline siblings – Mittens, Tom Kitten, and Moppet – tumbling about the doorstep and playing in the dust. Their mother, Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit, expects "fine company" for tea so she fetches the children indoors to wash and dress them before her friends arrive. Tom is "very naughty" and scratches his mother while she grooms him. Tabitha dresses Moppet and Mittens in clean pinafores and tuckers, and Tom in "all sorts of elegant uncomfortable clothes" taken from a chest of drawers. Tom is so fat that he bursts several buttons, but his mother sews them back on again.

Tabitha turns her kittens into the garden to keep them out of the way while she makes hot buttered toast for the party. She tells them to keep their frocks clean and keep away from the pigsty, the dirty ash pit, Sally Henny Penny, and the Puddle-Ducks, and then returns to her work. Moppet and Mittens soon have their pinafores smeared with grass stains. They climb upon the garden wall and lose some of their clothing in the ascent. Tom has a more difficult time gaining the top of the wall "breaking the ferns, and shedding buttons right and left". He is disheveled when he reaches the top of the wall, and loses his hat, but his sisters try to pull him together. The rest of his buttons burst.

Three Puddle-ducks come marching along the road – "pit pat paddle pat! pit pat waddle pat!" Jemima Puddle-duck and Rebeccah put on some of the dropped clothing. The kittens lose the rest of their clothing descending the wall. Moppet invites Mr. Drake Puddle-duck to help dress Tom. He picks up various articles of Tom's clothing and "he put[s] them on himself!" The three ducks set off up the road just as Tabitha approaches and discovers her three children with no clothes on. She pulls them off the wall, "smacks" them, and takes them back to the house. "My friends will arrive in a minute, and you are not fit to be seen; I am affronted!" she says.

Tabitha sends her kittens upstairs, and tells her guests the kittens are in bed with the measles. However, "the dignity and repose of the tea party" is disturbed by the "very extraordinary noises overhead" as the playful kittens romp in a bedroom. An illustration depicts the bedroom in complete disorder and Tom in his mother's bonnet. The next illustration shows Tabitha entering the room. The author interrupts to promise the reader she will make a larger book about Tom some day. In the last pages, the Puddle-ducks have lost the kittens' clothing in a pond, and they have been looking for them ever since.