Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes is an old picture book, first published in 1971, and one we had in our house when my sisters and I were growing up. I have very fond memories of it and got it for Christmas this year. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t hold up, as it’s been over 40 years since the first publication, but I think that it does. What I remember most fondly about it, the amazing and intricate illustrations are still just as beautiful to an adult’s eye.
There isn’t really much of a plot here. Children ask their father to tell them a story and he tells them a lot of little rhymes and then they go off to bed. The poems are very simple little rhymes, along the lines of Mother Goose, and I remember setting most of the rhymes to simple little tunes and singing along with the book when I pored over the pages. I even remembered some of those little tunes just a little when I pored over the pages this past weekend. (Including the one little rhyme my dad altered to match my name and used to sing to me while he bounced me on his knee, which means it’s super extra special) But honestly the reason I loved the book then, and why I love it now, are the illustrations. They’re just so much fun and each page tells a story all by itself.
Here’s the sample page from Amazon, which will give you an idea of how detailed the illustrations are.
I, as a grown and feminist adult, was mildly irritated at one of the illustrations where a fox girl is proudly proclaiming she’s “…going to marry a rich farmer” as a way to get a boy fox to leave her alone. And yet, even despite that antiquated gender norm, I still love this book and think it’s really lovely.