Pat Hutchins, 75, Dies; Wrote and Illustrated Children’s Books

Ms. Hutchins made her debut in 1968 with “Rosie’s Walk — still one of her most successful books — which follows a perambulating hen’s blinkered path to her henhouse as a fox stalks her “across the yard,” “around the pond” and “under the beehives.”

But the fox is a Wile E. Coyote-like bumbler and — spoiler alert! — Rosie reaches her destination, unscathed, and in time for dinner.

Each short phrase in the 32-word book works like a title card in a silent movie — and Ms. Hutchins never mentions the fox.

Photo

In Pat Hutchins’s first book — and still one of her most successful — a hen eludes a bumbling fox.

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Simon & Schuster

“The reader knows what’s happening,” she said in an interview on her website this year, “but poor Rosie is totally innocent.”

She followed “Rosie’s Walk” with 41 other books for young readers. They included “Good-Night, Owl!” (1972), about an owl dealing with the daytime distractions that keep it from sleeping; the Titch books, which became a stop-motion animated TV series; and “Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie’s Chick?” (2015), a much-belated sequel that carries Rosie into motherhood.

“My editor and I were thinking of doing a counting book, possibly with chicks,” Ms. Hutchins told Tygertale, a children’s book blog, in 2015, “and the moment she mentioned chicks, I thought it would be lovely for Rose to have a chick of her very own.”

In the new hen’s tale, Rosie cannot find her newborn even though it is nearby — if only she would turn this way or that.

Ms. Hutchins also reprised Rosie with more words and more characters (the fox returns, with its cub) and a landscape filled with fruit trees and haystacks.

Publishers Weekly said the book “stays so true to ‘Rosie’s Walk’ that it could’ve easily been published a few years after that book, instead of almost 50.”

Hazel Patricia Goundry was born on June 18, 1942, at Catterick Camp, a military base in North Yorkshire, where her father, Terry, was stationed in the British Army. Her parents divorced when she was young, leaving her mother, Lily, to raise her and her six siblings. She held various jobs, including school caretaker.

An elderly couple who noticed young Pat’s early artistic talent bought her drawing pads, which she took to the countryside, with Sooty, her pet crow, perched on her shoulder or on the handle bars of her bicycle.

After graduating from Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Art University), Ms. Hutchins started work as an illustrator. As an assistant art director at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in London, she met her future husband, Laurence Hutchins, who was also working there. They married in 1966 and soon after moved to New York City, when he was relocated.

During her two years in New York, she pitched what was to become “Rosie’s Walk” to Macmillan.

Ms. Hutchins recalled that the original manuscript was a dull litany of animal noises. But her editor at Macmillan, Susan Hirschman, seized on one line — “This is the fox that never makes a noise.” It helped set Rosie, and Ms. Hutchins, on their way.

“Pat had no sense of direction physically,” Ms. Hirschman, who also edited her at Greenwillow Books, said in an interview. “You could put her on 69th Street and tell her to go to 70th Street and she couldn’t do it. But in her books, she had an infallible sense of direction. ‘Rosie’s Walk’ is all about direction. ‘Titch’ is all about direction. So is ‘Changes, Changes.’ ”

That book, published in 1971, had its genesis when Ms. Hutchins wanted to create a book about something that changes but “didn’t want to do the butterfly-caterpillar bit,” she said in her website interview.

Using her son Morgan’s building blocks, she and her husband made houses and machines. She then illustrated how a wooden couple transformed their fire-damaged house made of building blocks into a fire engine, a boat, a truck and a steam engine.

“No words at all,” Kirkus Reviews wrote. “The drawing pen is so much mightier, the metamorphoses a perpetual treat.”

In addition to her son Morgan, Ms. Hutchins is survived by another son, Sam, whose life also became grist for the Titch stories; four grandchildren; and four brothers, Terry, Dennis, Keith and Brian.

Laurence Hutchins, a filmmaker and photographer who illustrated some of the books his wife wrote, died in 2008.

Ms. Hutchins’s involvement in children’s entertainment did not end with books. In the mid-1990s, she acted in “Rosie & Jim,” a series, seen on British television and in the United States on PBS Kids, about two rag dolls who live on a boat and come to life when no one is looking.

Ms. Hutchins played the boat owner — and the illustrator of Rosie and Jim’s adventures.

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