With Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman out next month after a 55 year wait, gaps between (the publication of) sequels are the talk of the town. After all, we readers all love it when a great book has a sequel that we can dive into, sparing us the loss of having to leave a new world behind, allowing us to continue being part of a landscape we’ve fallen in love with.
Some gaps between children’s books and their sequels are very large indeed: There were more than 50 years between Heidi and the first publication of Heidi Grows Up, in excess of 90 years between Peter and Wendy and Peter Pan in Scarlet, and 102 years between Five Children and It and Five Children on the Western Front.
But hang on – in each of these cases these sequels were written after the original author had died.
What about story arcs which have been returned to by the original author after a considerable period of time? 18 years went by between the publication of the third and forth volumes of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea series (The Farthest Shore in 1972 and Tehanu in 1990). 23 years after Richard Adams penned Watership Down (1972), he returned with Tales from Watership Down (1996). Alan Garner finally completed his Weirdstone trilogy with Boneland almost 50 years after the second book in the series, The Moon of Gomrath (1963).
It’s not just novels which are sometimes returned to after a long gap. There are several cases where picture book sequels have appear a considerable time after a first book about a given character. There were 9 years between the debut Winnie the Witch (by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul) and Winnie in Winter (1996). Despite a slow start, there are now 15 books in the series!
There was an even longer passage of time between the first Elmer book by David McKee and the second outing for Elmer although they weren’t quite sequels; Elmer was first published in 1968 and 21 years later a re-written, re-illustrated version came out with a different publisher (Andersen), essentially as a new book. More easily identified as sequels, Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji and Zathura were also published 21 years apart.
But the longest gap I can find in the world of picture books, when it comes to time elapsed before a sequel appeared, is 47 years. Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins first appearing in 1968. It’s been 47 years in the coming, but this year finally saw its sequel hit bookshelves, in the form of Where, Oh Where, is Rosie’s chick?
When we first met Rosie the Chicken we delighted as she walked about her farm, managing to avoid being captured by a wiley fox. Was she really entirely oblivious to the vulpine threat as she strutted about? Was the fox simply so stupid he only had himself to blame for his downfall? Great fun is had by the two stories running in parallel and yet intricately entwined. It’s a super joke – the fox isn’t ever explicitly mentioned, and yet without the fox there would be no story.
Fast forward nearly half a century and we meet Rosie just as her chick is hatching. Just as the chick tries to leave the nest, Rosie loses her little one. She searches high and low whilst the little chick faces threats from cats and fish and… yes, foxes, each time being saved serendipitously, by the un-knowing actions of her mum. It’s a funny read, with elements of slapstick, rounded off with reassurance (even the foxes appear only to have been playing family hide and seek), faithfully echoing the original palette and style of artwork. A little bit of nostalgia helps carry the the visual and written stories; the sequel’s ending doesn’t have quite the wicked joy of the original, but can nevertheless be enjoyed both those new to Rosie, and by old friends.
Inspired by Hutchins distinctive art we tried our had at making landscapes through which Rosie and her chick could wander. First we painted swathes and patches of various shades of green and yellow. Once these patches were dry we use leaf and fruit shaped stamps made from modelling clay (plasticine) to created repeated motifs on top of our blocks of colour. Once leaves and fruit were dry we went round the contours with a black permanent pen.
Hutchins herself creates her art in quite a different way creating the line drawings first and adding colour afterwards, but even so, our end results mirrored her landscapes rather pleasingly.
One of the lovely things about returning to Rosie years after I first met her is in the opportunity the sequel gives to reflect on how my life has changed since I first read Rosie’s Walk as a child, and years later shared it as a parent myself. There’s something very comforting about now having the story of Rosie’s chick to giggle over together with my own children. It’s a treat I suspect many parents and children, or even grandparents and grandchildren will enjoy.
But what about you? What sequels have you eagerly waited for? And what sequels (real or only dreamed of) are you or your children still waiting for?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Where, Oh Where, is Rosie’s Chick? from the publisher.