A staple of humorous stories for years has been the idea of the oblivious protagonist. How many cartoons have you watched where the well meaning but bumbling hero comes within a hair's breath of death as some watchful soul (either someone who wants to hurt our hero or help them) accidentally falls into madcap trap after trap after trap? Tons. After all, it's funny stuff. Well "Rosie's Walk" ascribed to that idea way back in 1968 when it was first published. The tale of blithe Rosie and the doe eyed fox that wants to eat her is as old as the hills and still just as funny.
Rosie decides one day to go for a walk. As she does so a hungry fox gets wind of the plump little hen and decides to pounce upon her for his (her?) supper. Rosie takes no notice of this impending danger, and the book is simply a series of vignettes of chicken and fox locked in that eternal conflict of hunter and prey. The text, such as it is, is very simple. It never makes a single mention of the fox, choosing to only describe Rosie's walk. In fact, one could write the entire book out in a single sentence since there are only 32 words in total. It is a deceptively simple book.
So what makes this such a fabulous story? Well, what Pat Hutchins overdoes in brevity, she makes up for with some of the most elaborate pen and ink drawings I've seen in a long time. Rosie, for one, is a joy. Her expression never changes for a moment. This hen is oblivious to not only the fox, but also the world at large. She walks about with her eyes at half-mast wearing an expression of deep disinterest. If you happen to know a typical teenager, that teenager in chicken form would be Rosie. The fox, on the other hand, makes up for all the emotions that nonplussed Rosie lacks. This is a beautiful creature, sporting an elaborately illustrated body and soft melting eyes. It doesn't hurt that every picture in this book looks like it was fun for the author/illustrator to draw. Birds flying in the trees are a complex amalgamation of dots, patterns, and slinky black lines. Even the grasshoppers in the fields are elaborate combinations of circles and lines. Rosie's feathers alone are so well organized and detailed that I'd half like to frame her and put her up on my wall. And though the gags directed against the poor schlimazel of a fox are obvious, they're well executed. Hutchins has a wonderful sense of timing in this story. This book is truly a class act. For any beginning reader, this is a tale to both impress and humble. A really wonderful picture book.