Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
Henny was born just a little different than all of the other chickens. She was born with arms instead of wings! Henny liked her arms sometimes like when they flapped when she ran. Other times, she didn’t like her arms. Sometimes she liked being different and other times it made her feel sad and lonely. Henny had to worry about different things than other chickens like gloves or mittens. She tried to fit in with the other chickens, but she was always different no matter what she did. Then one day, she caught a falling egg and started to see how many ways she could use her arms and hands.
Stanton has captured exactly what it feels like to be distinctly different from others and the transformation that can occur when you realize the good parts of being unique. The text of the book is simple. She uses humor throughout the book to make sure the spirit stays light, even during Henny’s darker moments of doubt.
The watercolor illustrations are also quite funny. I particularly love the image of Henny running with her arms flapping behind her and that being one of Henny’s favorite things about her arms. By the end of the book, you are almost surprised to see other chickens with wings since the arms suit Henny perfectly.
A great pick to start discussions about being different, the light touch here keeps the subject approachable. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Ten Eggs in a Nest by Marilyn Sadler, illustrated by Michael Fleming
Released January 28, 2014.
Gwen the Hen laid eggs and Red Rooster was very excited to be a father. Gwen refused to let him count the eggs before they hatched because it was bad luck. So Red just had to wait. When one egg hatched, he marched off to the market to buy the new chick one worm. But when he returned home, there were two more new chicks! He hurried back to the market after adding 1+2. Then when he returned there were three more chicks. 1+2+3=6 newly hatched chicks and off Red hurried. I bet you can guess what happened next!
This beginning reader nicely mixes counting and addition into the story. Young readers will enjoy the bustling pace of the book and the tension of what Red will find upon his return to the nest. The entire book has a warmth and sense of community that is tangible. Simple text includes lots of numbers and remains simple for new readers throughout.
Fleming’s art is cartoon-like and very child friendly. The colors pop on the white backgrounds, especially Red who is really a rainbow of colors including orange, purple and blue. The oval chicks are bouncy and cute as can be.
To sum it up, this is a great “addition” to new reader collections. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Random House.
Prairie Chicken Little by Jackie Mims Hopkins, illustrated by Henry Cole
One day out on the grasslands, Mary McBlicken the prairie chicken heard a deep rumbling. She ran off to tell Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan that a stampede was coming! That is the set up for this prairie version of Chicken Little. The prairie chicken soon has a prairie dog, jack rabbit, and meadowlark running with her to report the oncoming stampede. Then they meet the coyote, Slim, who offers to show them a shortcut. The friends realize what is happening before they enter the coyote’s cave and attack, drawing the attention of Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan who come to their rescue. In the end, the source of the rumbling is not a stampede of course!
Hopkins has written this book to be read aloud. The entire book has a rhythm to it that works very well, quickly setting a playful but fast pace for the story. Readers will not need to have read Chicken Little to enjoy this new version, but children who know both versions will enjoy this one immensely too. Hopkins also uses rhyming names that take the place of rhyming lines. This is combined with nice rhyming repetition in some of the text, making this a treat to share aloud.
Cole’s illustrations are playful and filled with action. The animals are all cartoony and friendly, even the sly coyote is more sly than fearful. Thanks to his bright colors and large format, the illustrations will work well with a group of children.
Energetic and funny, this book is a good one to share with children learning about habitats as well as those looking for a good giggle. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.
The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean-Francois Dumont
The chickens on the farm have built a wall but no one else is quite sure why. It started when the hedgehog suddenly appeared in the middle of the farm. The chickens were all very concerned about this strange new animal that quickly curled itself into a prickly ball. But most alarming was when it had disappeared the next morning. Perhaps it was after the chicks and eggs! None were missing, but that didn’t stop the hens from accusing the hedgehog of eating their worms. The rooster decided that they could not stand by and have this continue happening, so they leapt into action and built a wall. It was not just a small wall, but one that grew so high that one could not see where it ended in the sky. Can this wall save the chickens? And what is it saving them from exactly?
Dumont tells a story about flighty chickens who jump to absurd conclusions immediately about a foreign creature. The hens are frantic in their reactions, going to such lengths to protect themselves from nothing at all. Readers will see parallels between gated communities and the chickens’ wall as well as the fast judgments made about people who are different from ourselves. This would serve as a very nice book to introduce for discussions about diversity and community.
Dumont’s illustrations have a wonderful silliness to them. The chickens are pop-eyed and always moving quickly. The hedgehog is still, low and quiet. The two set each other off nicely in both the illustrations and the storyline.
Translated from the original French, this book has a universal appeal and also a clever quirkiness that adds charm. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
The Loopy Coop Hens: Letting Go by Janet Morgan Stoeke
This is the third Loopy Coop Hens book and it continues the silly adventures of these three goofy hens. Here the question is why apples fall. The hens think that it is probably the fox hiding in the tree and throwing apples at them. They try to get Rooster Sam to help them, but he is so traumatized by the falling apples almost hitting him, that he runs away. The hens know that it is up to them, so Dot volunteers to climb up the ladder to see what is going on and whether it is a fox or not. Dot heads to the top of the tree and discovers two things: why apples fall and how gorgeous the view is that high up.
Stoeke has a real touch for the absurd and silly. In her flighty hens, she demonstrates how even the silliest can also be the brave ones. Her art is simple-lined and really tells a lot of the story along with the words. The book works well as a read-aloud and the pictures are large enough to work well with a group.
This is a simple chapter book in the guise of a picture book, inviting beginning readers to give it a try. Even better, it ends with chickens falling out of trees! A perfect addition for fall and apple story times and units. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Busy-Busy Little Chick by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Mama Nsoso and her chicks needed a new home. They spent each night shivering and cold in their dark, damp nest. So Mama Nsoso said that tomorrow they would start work on their new home. But the first day, Mama Nsoso found worms to eat and decided to eat rather than build a house. The family shivered through another night. The next day there were crickets to eat and no work was done. Except by Little Chick who set out to gather grasses and mud to create their new home. His hard work resulted in a fine new home for them, and then he was off finding himself some delicious bugs to eat.
Harrington writes like a storyteller. Her words flow beautifully when shared aloud. She has reworked a classic fable from the Nkundo people of Central Africa and throughout has woven in Lunkundo words from their language. She has also added lots of sounds to the book, so there are wonderful patterns that emerge as the hen and her chicks move through their day. She clearly enjoys wordplay and creating rhymes and rhythms, all of which make for a great book to share aloud.
Pinkney’s art is large and bold, filled with warm yellows and oranges. He has created images of the hen and her little family isolated and floating in cold blues. They are brilliant orange, evoking the warmth of family and shelter. His art is simple but filled with moving lines and playfulness with white space.
A great pick for spring story times, don’t be chicken to share this one. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Little Chick and Mommy Cat by Marta Zafrilla, illustrated by Nora Hilb
Little Chick has been raised by Mommy Cat since she was still in an egg. When Little Chick was very small, he thought that he was a cat too. He tried to be a cat, but it didn’t work. He couldn’t meow, or lick his paws or flick his tail. His mother explained to him that he was not a cat, but a chick and his real mother was a hen. When the two of them would go out, others would stare at them because they were different. His mother told him that it’s not bad to be different, what is bad is to want to be like everyone else. His mother also made sure to give him time to be with other chicks by taking him to the Bird School so he could learn everything he needed to about being a chicken. The other chicks asked him all sorts of questions because his mother was so different from the others. Little Chick though is happy to be part of his different but very loving family.
This picture book speaks directly to the issues of diversity and different types of families. It will also be happily embraced by families who have adopted children, because it manages to explain clearly and with no hesitation the basic love and acceptance of diversity in adoptive families. Small children will respond to the animal characters but easily also draw connections to themselves.
Zafrilla’s text is straight forward, tackling larger issues and bringing them to a level that small children will easily understand. She builds an unlikely family and happily shows the love and attachment between a cat and a chick. This is a book that is unlikely to be read as a straight animal story, because the connection to adoption is so clear. That said, the clarity and honesty here is what makes it shine.
Hilb’s illustrations add a colorful touch to the story. The colored pencil illustrations use delicate lines and soft colors to tell the story. The feathers and fur beg to be petted with their textures. Hilb maintains the size difference throughout the story, further emphasizing the differences between the cat and her chick.
This picture book focuses on diversity, love and the many forms it can come in. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Independent Publishers Group.
One Little Chicken by Elka Weber, illustrated by Elisa Kleven
When Leora finds a chicken has wandered into their house, her mother reminds her that finders aren’t keepers. When her father returns from work, he agrees. But it is their duty to take care of the chicken until its rightful owners claim it. So, they build a chicken coop. When the hen lays eggs, they do not eat them but the eggs hatch into chicks. Soon there are chicks everywhere. So they take them to market and sell them for coins that they use to purchase a little goat. They milk the goat, turn the milk into cheese, but again do not eat it, because it is not their cheese. They sell the cheese for coins and buy another goat. Soon they have a family of goats who are often causing mischief, creating odors, and wreaking havoc. Finally, Leora’s mother has had enough and runs off down the road with the goats chasing after her. And who do you think she meets on the road?
This is the retelling of a story from the Talmud and retains the feel of a classic story. The story is not only about “finders aren’t keepers” but also speaks to the responsibility of community to care for one another. Weber’s writing incorporates small details that add to the depth of the story. For example, when Leora and her father are building the chicken coop: “Sawdust flew, wood shavings scattered, nails bent.” It reads aloud with a lovely rhythm and ease.
Kleven’s illustrations are done in mixed-media collage using watercolors, ink, pastels and colored pencils. They have a detail that is very engaging. Some of the panels are framed in flowing flowers, others have interesting textures, and all have a warmth that is welcoming.
A great addition to units on cooperation or community, this book will also be a good pick for chicken story times. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Tricycle Press.
Also reviewed by Journey of a Bookseller.
Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman
This vibrant picture book plays with color and perspective as well as characters who leave the flat page and enter the real world. The picture is almost finished when one of the chickens in the picture pops her head out. She then stands up and walks over to the paint pots that are waiting to finish the picture. When the chicken peeks into the blue paint, she accidentally tips it over and ends up painting herself. She is joined by a little duckling and then more who splash around in the new blue puddle, turning themselves and the cat who walked past blue. Soon all of the animals are blue. Now what can be done to turn them all back to normal?
There is a wonderful playfulness about this title. Even the grumpy animals end up enjoying the escapade. At the same time, there are lots of options to discuss colors, perspective, and art. The book has real depth to it, allowing it to be read just as a cute story, or used more seriously with children.
The words are simple and try to stay out of the way, allowing the art to really shine here. And shine it certainly does. It dazzles and glows, inviting young readers into the humor of the book and revealing a magical quality that is lovely. From the freshness of the first spill of the blue to the sogginess and flatness that results, there is an exploration of the media here right on the page.
Highly recommended, this is one of my favorite picture books of the year. It is a charming jewel of a picture book that is fun, silly, yet offers plenty to learn. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking Books.
Also reviewed by Fuse #8.
Can Hens Give Milk? by Joan Betty Stuchner, illustrated by Joe Weissmann
Shlomo and Riva live on a farm where they have five children, twelve hens and one rooster. Rivka wishes that they had a cow to give the family milk and cheese. That night, Shlomo had a dream that showed him what they could do. Cows eat grass and give milk, so he reasoned that if the hens were fed grass, they would give milk too. But the hens refused to eat the grass. One of the daughters, Tova, came up with the idea of rolling the grass into pellets that look like the grain that the hens usually eat. But even then, the hens would not eat the grass. There was only one thing to do, and that was to force the hens to each eat one pellet of grass. The family then left them to lay eggs and give milk overnight. What do you think happened next? All I will say is that in the end, the family had eggs AND milk. But how?
This story of a fool and his family is written with great humor. Children will immediately recognize the nonsense of the logic that Shlomo and his family are using, so they will enjoy seeing the story play out. There is plenty of opportunity for laughter as new solutions are generated and then also proven to not work. It’s a story that will have you grinning just because of the silliness of the entire book.
Weissman’s art is bright and silly as well, reveling in the humor of the text. The dreams of milk and cheese are brought to life as are the hiccupping and indignant hens.
A silly book that will lend a lot of laughter to a unit or storytime on food, this book reads aloud well. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by