First published in the 1960’s, I remember learning to read with the One, Two, Three and Away books when I was at primary school. The corner of our school hall was also the school library, and there was an entire shelf of these little white books arranged neatly, in order, on the bookshelves. You would borrow one of the books, take it home and read it with an adult. When you’d finished your book you could take it back and get the next book in the series.
The books were written by Sheila McCullagh, and illustrated by Ferelith Eccles Williams. They were split into different levels of reading abilities, starting with pre-schoolers and early readers, and ending with the colour coded series of Blue, Green, Red and Yellow, though whether this is in level of relative difficulty I do not know. I also have no idea what the top end of the reading age scale was intended to be, but I would guess somewhere in the 8-10 year old range.
The first character you met in these books was Roger Red Hat. So synonymous with the series was this character that the range of books was usually referred to by most children as the Roger Red Hat books, rather than One, Two, Three and Away. Roger was a happy little chappy who always word a red hat, that looked something like a beret, a green waistcoat and a spotty red neckerchief.
He was joined by the equally alliteratively named Billy Blue Hat, twins Johnny and Jennifer Yellow Hat, and Percy Green Hat. I can understand Johnny and Jennifer being given names that didn’t start with a letter Y as there are few names to choose from, but surely Graham Green Hat would have been a better choice than Percy?
The books were set in The Village With Three Corners, with each character living in a house somewhere within the triangular village. It was easy to tell who lived where by the colour of the roof of the house. For example, I seem to recall Johnny and Jennifer lived in a quaint little yellow rooved thatched cottage.
I believe these books stopped being published in the 1980’s, but it appears that many primary schools across the UK still have a large number of them stashed away in their libraries somewhere, as my nephew has recently brought a number of them home to read from his primary school.