Hattie and the Fox

Illustrated by Patricia Mullins


“Hattie was a big black hen. One morning she looked up and said, ‘Goodness gracious me! I can see a nose in the bushes!’

Oh, I know I shouldn’t say this but I adore this book. It’s been the bridge to literacy for many a struggling reader, let alone a read-aloud delight for millions of children at home and in school, for over 25 years (2013)

At a reading conference in Hong Kong in 1984 I attended a workshop in which rhyming, rhythmic books were read aloud interactively for over an hour. It was brilliant. The point was to show how easy it is for young children to learn to read with bouncy, repetitive books. I was thinking in bouncy rhymes all day! I wrote the first draft of Hattie that night. Of all the books I’ve written this is the one which has been quoted to me most by teachers as having made the difference to a non-reader i.e. they have learned to read, finally and with easy pleasure, using this book.

It is based on the traditional hen-and-fox tales, which go back to Chaucer, Aesop and the dawn of time, I imagine. It has strong a basis in the structure of the story of The Little Red Hen and also leans on Pat Hutchins’ famous book: Rosie’s Walk. I love reading it aloud with lots of verve and noise, in a sing-song, very rhythmic, chanting style.

It is one of my classics, long-lasting and much-loved.