Rosie the hen goes for a walk. She goes across the yard, around the pond, over the haycock, past the mill, through the fence, under the beehives and gets back in time for dinner.
That’s the sum total of the story. It’s less than fifty words long. But on each page, as Rosie strides confidently across the farm, a hungry fox pursues her. He is never mentioned in the text and exists purely in the pictures. Between each page that tells you where Rosie is is a double spread of the fox getting his comeuppance, cartoon style (Road Runny and Wile E. Coyote come to mind).
This is another excellent example of how pictures made picture books and of the crucial element of the visual in picturebook narrative. It’s the book Margaret Meek uses to explore how young children gain a sense of a narrative and visual literacy before they can read.
The drawing is stylised and arguably a little stiff but the absence of obvious emotion frees up both adult and child to speculate and discuss how each character may be feeling. It opens the debate as to how much Rosie knows – is she oblivious to the danger she is in? Or does she know about the fox and is leading him deliberately into trouble?
In terms of style this book may show its age but it is a timeless classic and well worth having and laughing over together.