Hetty Feather

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Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson
Hetty feather.jpg
AuthorJacqueline Wilson
IllustratorNick Sharratt
Cover artistNick Sharratt
CountryUnited Kingdom
Pages309 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN978-0-385-61444-3 (first edition, hardback)

Hetty Feather is a book by best-selling author Jacqueline Wilson. It is about a young girl who is abandoned by her mother at the Foundling Hospital as a baby and follows her story as she lives in a foster home before returning to the Foundling Hospital as a curious 6-year-old. There are more books to the "series" of Hetty Feather, these are recommended for ages 11–15, according to the author.[1] CBBC created a TV series based on the book, with Isabel Clifton portraying Hetty. The programme was first aired in 2015. In the United States BYUtv has the US broadcast rights and began airing it in March 2018. The book is followed by Sapphire Battersea.


Hetty was abandoned at the Foundling Hospital as a newborn baby. Children abandoned at the Hospital are in Foster care or fostered until the age of five, at the nearest date when they turn five they will be returned to the hospital to start their education. Hetty spends her earlier life as a foster child under the care of Peg and John Cotton who she knows as her mother and her father. She is very unaware that she will one day have to leave the Cottons. There are other foster children in her home as well as Peg and John's own children. At one point, she attends a circus, where she meets Madame Adeline, whom she believes to be her mother because of her bright red hair, which is similar to Hetty's own.

A few weeks later, the time comes for Hetty and Gideon to be sent back to the Foundling Hospital. Everyone in the family is devastated, and Jem and Hetty promise to find each other again. Hetty finds her time in the hospital miserable and oppressive, and often rebels or otherwise talks back in an environment where she's expected to be meek and obedient. This earns her the animosity of the hospital's Matrons, who punish her severely. Despite that, she manages to make friends among fellow foundlings and even staff, including Ida, a kind kitchen maid.

When Hetty is a little older, the children at the Foundling Hospital go to the Queen's Golden Jubilee. On the trip, Hetty sees a circus and believes it's the one that Madame Adeline belongs to. When she discovers it isn't, Hetty manages to run away to find the right one and Madame Adeline along with it. Upon meeting her, Hetty is shocked to discover that Adeline is much older than she appears and that her red hair is a wig; Madame Adeline is kind to her but tells her she must return to the hospital. Hetty once again runs away but stumbles into a bad district where she is nearly kidnapped by a sinister man until an older flower girl named Sissy saves her. Sissy takes Hetty to her home, where she meets her terribly ill sister, Lil, and her drunkard father. Sissy and Hetty go out to sell flowers the following day, whereupon they are approached by a writer named Sarah Smith. Sarah takes Sissy and Hetty to a restaurant, where she asks questions for her new book "Penny for a Posy" and Hetty concocts an elaborate tale of her life as a flower girl. After asking her questions, Sarah Smith reveals that she is a new benefactor for the hospital and that she recognises Hetty as the girl who has run away but praises her story-telling abilities. Sissy leaves and Sarah takes Hetty back to the Hospital after buying her ink and a book as a treat to record her memoirs.

When Hetty is returned to the hospital, Ida collapses upon seeing her. Sarah Smith tells the matron that Hetty was kidnapped and there is to be no punishment, which the matron has no choice but to obey. Hetty is allowed to visit Ida in her attic room, where Ida reveals that she is Hetty's mother and has been working at the hospital to look after her. Hetty's father is revealed to be a man with red hair as well as a sailor with whom she has no contact. Ida tells Hetty it must be their secret, as she will get sacked if she is found out and will no longer be able to see her. The book ends with Ida and Hetty planning a happy future together.


  • Hetty Feather – The main character who has been abandoned as a baby at the Foundling Hospital. She is well known for her red hair and her fiery temper. She's the protagonist of the story.
  • Gideon Smeed – Hetty's foster brother. He is five days older than Hetty and is rather timid.
  • Jem – Hetty's other foster brother and Peg and John's youngest biological son. He takes a shine to Hetty and promises to marry her once she leaves the hospital.
  • Saul – Hetty's foster brother and occasional a bully to others. He is described as having a "withered leg" and is two years older than Hetty. He dies of influenza in the Foundling Hospital.
  • Martha – Hetty's foster sister. She has bad eyesight and is three years older than Hetty. She is talented at singing and very well-mannered but has poor sight and a squinting eye.
  • Peg – Hetty's foster mother, who sometimes hits Hetty for her naughty behaviour, but nonetheless loves her, along with the other children.
  • John – Hetty's foster father, who works as a farmer and is kind but domineering towards the children.
  • Little Eliza – A foundling who is also Hetty's foster sister. She is four years younger than Hetty. Hetty is appalled when she discovers that Jem had also promised Eliza that he'd marry her.
  • Nat – Her foster parent's son who teases Jem for playing 'girly' games with Hetty.
  • Marcus – Peg and John's oldest son. He is in the military, and not encountered in the book.
  • Big Eliza – Hetty's older foster sister and the third youngest of Peg and John's biological children. She bears the same name as the youngest foundling brought into their family.
  • Rosie – Hetty's older foster sister and the second-youngest biological child of Peg and John.
  • Bess and Nora – Peg and John's oldest daughters. They are in service and are never encountered in the book.
  • Ida Battersea – The kind kitchen maid at the Foundling Hospital who is later revealed to be Hetty Feather's biological mother.
  • Polly Renfrew – Hetty's best friend at the Foundling Hospital. She is adopted by a couple whose daughter Lucy had died of flu.
  • Harriet – A kind older girl at the Foundling Hospital who takes a shine to Hetty.
  • Sheila – A girl who lives in the same dormitory as Hetty, who bullies Hetty. She's the second antagonist of the story and she's Matron's sidekick by getting Hetty into trouble.
  • Monica – Sheila's best friend. She imitates Sheila but is kinder than her.
  • Matron Bottomly -The head of the senior school in the Foundling Hospital. Hetty calls her "Matron Stinking Bottomly" behind her back. She is the main antagonist of the story and constantly bullies Hetty and gets her own way with the foundlings.
  • Matron Peters -The head of the infant's school. Hetty calls her "Matron Pig-Face Peters" behind her back.
  • Nurse Winterson – The kind nurse at the Foundling Hospital whom Hetty adores and calls "Nurse Winnie". Nurse Winterson was the same nurse who successfully got Hetty to feed as a newborn.
  • Madame Adeline – A circus performer for whom Hetty develops a strong feeling of love. Hetty believes Adeline may be her mother, but it turns out not to be.
  • Sissy – A fourteen-year-old flower girl who rescues Hetty from a strange man. She lives in a small room with her sister Lil and her father, an alcoholic who spends all of Sissy's flower-selling money on drink.
  • Lil – Sissy's little sister who suffers from a life-threatening cough. She eventually dies, despite access to healthcare in her final days.
  • Miss Sarah Smith – A rich and successful author writing "Penny for a Posy", a book about young flower sellers, mainly based on Hetty and Sissy, and the newest benefactor for the Foundling Hospital. She dedicates her book to Hetty, Sissy and the memory of Lil.

TV adaptation[edit]

Hetty Feather was filmed by CBBC Productions under lead writer Helen Blakeman, and aired on British TV channel CBBC in May 2015.[2][3][4] Cobham Hall girls school in Cobham, Kent was used as a film location.[5] 12-year-old Isabel Clifton starred as Hetty.[6] The series consists of ten 30-minute episodes.[2]

Stage adaption[edit]

In 2014 Hetty Feather was adapted for the stage. The production opened at Rose Theatre, Kingston in April 2014 before embarking on a UK tour.[7] It then transferred to the West End at the Vaudeville Theatre and opened on 5 August.[8] It was subsequently nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Family and Entertainment Show.[9] The show was adapted by Emma Reeves and directed by Sally Cookson with Phoebe Thomas in the title role.

Original cast[edit]

  • Phoebe Thomas as Hetty Feather[7]
  • Paul Mundell as Gideon
  • Isaac Stanmore as Saul
  • Nikki Warwick as Madame Adeline
  • Seamus H. Carey as Musician
  • Luke Potter as Musician

Musician Alex Heane joined the company for the West End run.

2015–2016 revival[edit]

A revival of the show is planned for a 2015–2016 UK tour, including another West End run at the Duke of York's Theatre[10] and a residence over Christmas at The Lowry in Manchester.[11][12]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b Wiseman, Andreas (22 November 2013). "CBBC to adapt Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather". Broadcastnow.co.uk. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  3. ^ "Press release: CBBC announces new drama commissions". BBC Media Center. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2015. Hetty Feather will air on CBBC in 2014/15. Lead writer is Helen Blakeman
  4. ^ Delgado, Kasia (7 May 2015). "Which is your favourite Jacqueline Wilson book?". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Retrieved 7 May 2015. The CBBC adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson's 2009 book Hetty Feather starts on Monday
  5. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Hetty Feather Article".
  6. ^ "Hetty Feather casting news". Screenterrier.blogspot.co.uk. June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Rose Theatre Kingston". Rosetheatrekingston.org. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather transfers to West End". Whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 May 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Hetty Feather Live - West End production at Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota, Florida". Hettyfeatherlive.com. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  11. ^ Hutchison, David (17 March 2015). "Hetty Feather returns to West End for second run - News". Thestage.co.uk. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather returns to West End". Whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 16 February 2019.