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.
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.
Building Our House by Jonathan Bean
Told through the eyes of a young girl, this picture book chronicles her family’s move from the city to the country. There in a bare field, they are going to build their own home. The family works for a year and a half on their house, living in a very cozy trailer while they complete enough of the house to live in it. Slowly the house takes shape from pegging out the corners to digging out the foundation to the incredible use of hand tools to work on the lumber for the frame. Through it all, the entire family is involved in the process and what an amazing process it is!
There are plenty of lumber, rocks, trucks and construction in the book to keep children intrigued. It is great to see a construction book where children are right in the middle of things, helping and getting fully engaged and dirty. The story is based off of Bean’s own childhood when his own parents built their family home from the ground up. It is told from his older sister’s perspective. I think that is what really comes through in this story. It is intensely personal but also wonderfully detailed so that children really get the feel of what it is to spend over a year building a home.
Bean’s writing and illustrations work beautifully together. The illustrations are filled with small touches like the cats who join the family. The seasons rush in and out, changing plans and creating a colorful background for the story. This is a house that honors the site it is built on with all of the nature around it, the book does as well.
Get this into the hands of young construction enthusiasts definitely! But it has appeal far beyond that since it is a story of family at its heart. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Demolition by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
There has been a movement recently to create some very original and fresh construction and truck books. Before that, it was a bit of a desert of naming big trucks, telling how they work, and leaving it at that. This book is one of the best of those new, fresh books about construction vehicles. In rhyming lines, it tells the story of the demolition of a building. It begins with the people getting ready, moves to the wrecking ball, then the excavator and its tearing jaws. There are stone crushers and wood shredders. Trucks are loaded and clear the site, then they start to build something. Something with slides, monkey bars, and plenty of fun.
The rhyme and rhythm of this picture book really make it work. It has a bouncy rhythm that makes the book ideal for toddlers. The rhyming lines finish on each set of pages with noisy words that bring the work site to life. Add to that the appeal of knocking something down and then building something new, and you have brought a toddler dream to life. The illustrations have a great texture to them that evokes the dust and dirt of demolition. They avoid being too cartoon-like and instead use different vistas on the project to allow young readers to see more than they could of in real life.
One of the most appealing construction or destruction books around, this belongs in every library collection. It will also be appreciated by librarians and teachers who have long been looking for construction books worth sharing in a story time setting. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.