Chooky-Doodle-Doo by Jan Whiten, illustrated by Sinead Hanley (InfoSoup)
A fresh little counting book, this Australian import combines numbers with a jaunty rhyme. One little “chooky” chick is unable to pull a big worm out of the ground, so another chick tries to help. Three of them pull and pull then, and the worm just grows longer and longer. Eventually there are six chicks pulling and not able to get the worm out of the ground. Rooster joins them and helps to pull. They pull and pull, bracing themselves on the ground, until pop! The worm lets go and gives them all a big surprise.
Each page asks “What should chookies do?” and leads into the page turn where another chick has joined in helping. The next page then starts with the number of chicks pulling, making the counting element very clear for young readers. The text is simple and has a great rhythm to it. This picture book could easily be turned into a play for preschoolers to act out, since the actions are simple. The reveal at the end is very satisfying and make sure you look at the very final pages to see the smiling worm still happily in the dirt.
The illustrations are done in collage, both by hand and digital. The textures of the papers chosen for the collage offer a feeling of printmaking too, an organic style that works well with the subject matter. The chicks have huge eyes and are large on the page, making counting easy for the youngest listeners. The bright colors add to the appeal.
A great toddler read aloud for units on farms, this picture book will worm its way right into your heart. Appropriate for ages 2-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
A Chicken Followed Me Home!: Questions and Answers about a Familiar Fowl by Robin Page
What do you do when a chicken follows you home? All of the answers you need are in this nonfiction picture book that tells you facts about chickens. First, you will need to know what to feed your chicken. You may also want to know what kind of chicken you now have and whether it is a boy or a girl. You will need a chicken coop to keep your chicken safe from predators and give it somewhere to live. Then there is the question of eggs and if you want fertile eggs you will need both a hen and a rooster. Then the eggs have to hatch successfully. If they do, you will have lots of chickens instead of just two. Maybe they will follow someone else home!
Page is the author of several popular books about animals and she captures the joy of keeping chickens in this picture book. Using the framework of someone suddenly having to care for a chicken makes the book very approachable and readable. The facts are presented rather like a guidebook and offer matter-of-fact information for the new chicken owner or readers interested in chickens. This book will make a great addition to school and public libraries since it is information just at the right level for early report writers.
Page’s illustrations are spectacular. Done in collage and cut paper, she manages to create feathers out of patterned paper that look real and textured. Fuzzy baby chicks are almost touchable on the page as they struggled free from their eggs. The illustrations are large and bold, making this a book good for using with a class.
No need to be chicken, add this one to your library collection! Even children who haven’t found their own hens will delight in this book. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath (InfoSoup)
Released May 12, 2015.
Sophie has just moved to a farm they inherited from her great-uncle. Sophie’s father hunts for a job while her mother shuts herself in a room to write articles in order to pay the bills. Sophie’s father also works on the farm, trying to figure out how to care for the grapes and how to start the tractor. Sophie discovers a flyer in the barn about exceptional chickens from Redwood Farm Supply. She wants to start raising chickens herself and starts to write letters not only to Redwood Farm Supply, but to her dead Great-Uncle Jim and her deceased Abuelita. Soon Sophie discovers a small house on the farm and then a little white chicken with a grumpy attitude appears. Sophie has a chicken of her own! But a lady shows up and wants to steal the chicken just as Sophie is realizing that this is definitely one of those “exceptional” chickens from Redwood Farm Supply. It is up to Sophie to keep her chicken safe from the chicken thief and also discover what happened to the rest of her great-uncle’s flock of amazing birds.
Jones has inventively mixed magical realism with farming and chickens in this children’s novel. Sophie mentions several times in the book that there are not many other brown-skinned people around their new home. Then her letters to her Abuelita show her own Hispanic heritage in a way that is natural and organic. The book is rich with the wonder of figuring out how to care for all chickens, but it also tingles with the mystery of Redwood Farm Supply, who Agnes actually is, and why she can’t type well at all. Then when the amazing chickens arrive in the story, it’s a treat to see each breed of bird explained but also how their natural traits are heightened into super powers.
Sophie is a great main character. She’s a girl who is not afraid of the hard and dirty work of a farm and caring for chickens. She is lonely and isolated in their new home, partly due to her absent but also helicopter parents who over protect her. While there is plenty of magic in the book, the story also has down-to-earth elements that keep it grounded, including the slow process of making new friends, the pressures of a family low on money, and the satisfaction of hard work paying off.
A delightful mix of magical chickens and farm life, this book will appeal to fantasy readers but also to kids wanting more realistic fiction too. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis
P. Zonka isn’t like the other chickens on the farm. The other chickens lay eggs each and every day, but P. Zonka never lays a single egg. She’s busy walking around the farm noticing nature and the beauty of flowers and moss. The other hens call her lazy, but she doesn’t pay them any mind. Finally, after they cluck at her for a long time, P. Zonka agrees to try laying an egg. After clucking and delays, she lays an egg that isn’t anything like the brown and white eggs the other hens lay. P. Zonka’s egg is spectacular and shows in colors and design all of the beautiful things she has been seeing in nature. P. Zonka’s eggs are art, pure and simple.
Paschkis takes her inspiration from Ukrainian eggs designed with bright colors and intricate designs. A Ukrainian decorated egg is called a pysanka, giving P. Zonka her unique name. The story is written with the rhythm and structure of a traditional folktale. The complaining hens and rooster create the chorus of the book, the repetitive feature. This more formal structure contrasts wonderfully with P. Zonka’s daydreaming and wandering. Those parts of the book are filled with her descriptive words and the pacing shifts and changes.
Paschkis carries her Ukrainian inspiration directly into the art in the book, filling it with the colors and shapes of traditional art. The bright yellows, deep reds, clear blues and crisp greens echo the traditional art as do the sweeping lines and free flowing plants. Yet this is distinctly modern too with the lines having a looser feel and the animals feeling more life like.
This book is a winning blend of traditional and modern, folktale and new story. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
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.