Standing side by side in the field, Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay have become besotted with one another and plant to wed And like all engaged couples they make a list – not a guest list but a list of things they will need on their special day.
With list in hand they set off around the farm in search of the five items thereon.
The geese oblige with feathers for the dress and a friendly spider offers her stitching skills – item one sorted, The cows agree to be the bell ringers, the crabs provide a shell necklace and a pair of curtain hoops discovered by the mice are just what’s required for the wedding rings and then all that is left to find are pink flowers for Betty’s bouquet. And that is where the trouble begins as Harry sets off alone in search of same. While he is away, the farmer makes a stand-in for him in the field, a cocky character by the name of Reginald Rake. He attempts to woo Betty with his driving and dancing prowess, not to mention his smoking skills. But playing with fire is a dangerous game and it takes some quick thinking and nifty footwork from the returning Harry to save his beloved from immolation. Fire doused and with a kiss and a cuddle, the final item is crossed off the list. Next day with all the farmyard guests duly assembled they celebrate,
‘… the best wedding ever, the best wedding yet,
The wedding that no one will ever forget.’
As well as a stonking good story, this rhyming romp is a cautionary tale for would-be smokers and could perhaps serve as a starting point for a discussion on the dangers of lighting up. For me though, it’s Axel Scheffler’s artistic wizardry that brings the characters to life. His rainbow hued illustrations are crammed full of witty details and bit-part players and don’t miss that nod to the Gruffalo on the side of the tractor.