Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein

Cover image for Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast.

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein (9781536207781)

Little red chicken got up early on Saturday and brought his Papa breakfast in bed. Cookies for breakfast! But Papa doesn’t want either of them having cookies for breakfast and just wants to sleep a little longer. He agrees to read a book together though. Little red chicken picked out a book of nursery rhymes. There Was an Old Woman started out normally enough, but soon Little red chicken has turned it into a tale of shared cookies in a shoe. Jack and his candlestick and Hickory Dickory Dock all get changed too and now include cookies. Papa is starting to get a headache, so Little red chicken writes him a rhyme of his own which features cookies, of course. Now it is Papa’s turn to be hungry, and the two of them agree on a different treat for breakfast, cake! Pancakes.

This third book in the Interrupting Chicken series is another winner. In this book, Little red chicken interrupts regularly to continue to ask for cookies for breakfast. His sleepy and patient father goes along as best he can while also insisting that neither of them would have cookies for breakfast. The interruptions are great fun, transforming classic nursery rhymes into delicious humor. The relationship between the two characters is also a pleasure with their back and forth dialogue being just as joyous as the silly rhymes.

The art by Stein contrasts highly saturated and deeply colored images of the chickens with light pastel vintage nursery rhymes shown in a book. Those in turn get changed with some clever erasing and crayons that add yet another layer to the stories.

Another winner in a charming series. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

Mr. Watson’s Chickens by Jarrett Dapier

Cover image for Mr. Watson’s Chickens.

Mr. Watson’s Chickens by Jarrett Dapier, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi (9781452177144)

Mr. Watson lives with Mr. Nelson in a big house in an even bigger city. In their little yard, they kept dogs, cats and three chickens. They started with a sensible number of chickens, but Mr. Watson’s collection quickly grew until they had 456 chickens! Their big house had chickens in every room. One of the chickens, Aunt Agnes, even wrote a song that added to the chaos and noise. She sang it all the time. Finally, Mr. Nelson had had enough and threatened to move out to the chicken coop in the yard if nothing was done. The two of them took the chickens to the county fair to get rid of them. But after an accident sets all of the chickens free, they are forced to gather them all up again. Luckily, their accident proves to be exactly the solution to the chickens.

This picture book shares rollicking rhythms and repetition along with a skillfully told story. Dapier leans into the full chaos of so many chickens. It’s the song that Aunt Agnes writes that really proves to be too much, though young listeners will love it. There is a merriness to the entire book, where the chickens steal the story away from the gay couple who are struggling to adapt and figure out how to take control back from their feathered friends. The human couple caught in the frenzy are a wonderful example of how being gay can be an integral part of a story but not seen as an issue.

Tsurumi’s illustrations have a touch of vintage cartoons mixed with modern elements. She shows the wild world of the chickens with details that are great fun to look at. There is even one double-page spread of the county fair where readers can search for the last chicken. She layers additional visual jokes and humor onto a story that is already great fun.

A funny feathery frantic tale of pets that get out of control. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.

Ergo by Alexis Deacon

Cover image for Ergo.

Ergo by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz (9781536217803)

This philosophical picture book explores one chick’s world. Ergo wakes up not realizing she is inside an egg and thinks that she has discovered her entire world. She has eyes to see, toes that wiggle, wings that flap, a beak to peck and legs that kick. Perhaps, she thinks, she is the world and she had found everything. That’s when she discovers the wall of the egg around her. She pushes the wall, rolls the egg over, and realizes that she can move the entire world! That’s when she feels the bumps coming from outside the egg and realizes that she is not the entire world. Now she must decide whether to leap (or peck) her way into the unknown or stay safe in her small universe of the egg.

Deacon and Schwarz follow I Am Henry Finch with this picture book that plays with Plato. The book works on multiple levels, allowing adults to recognize the philosophy while also really working well as a picture book for young children that asks big questions about our world and our place within the universe. The use of the little chick and an egg serve a clever purpose here. Ergo asks the big questions while the simple style of the writing supports the ideas being shared.

The illustrations are simple and bold. Done in a sunshine yellow, Ergo fills the page. Often surrounded by a cool blue-gray, the illustrations show Ergo and her world, egg-sized and then larger.

Clever and inquisitive, this book will egg on children’s thinking about the world. Appropriate for ages 2-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit

Cover image.

The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit (9781771647823)

The farm was a safe place where life was comfortable and everyone knew their role. There were chickens who had plenty of food and a rather vicious dog who guarded them. Then one day, the capybaras emerged from the swampy part of the pen. There was no room for them there and they were not expected. The hens found them too big, too hairy and too wet. But the capybaras couldn’t go home because the hunting season had started. So the hens set some rules where they would not share food, or their dry pen, or tolerate any noise. Then one day after a chick had a misadventure, everything changed. The capybaras had saved the chick and now they were allowed to sleep in the chicken coop, share food and live together. Then hunting season ended and the capybaras prepared to leave. What were the new friends to do?

This picture book was originally published in Spanish in Latin America. Soderguit has a marvelous gift for wry understatement or in fact just stating the opposite of what is actually happening in the illustrations. This contributes to a sense that horrible things are happening off the page and the characters live in real denial, even before the capybaras arrive. The entire book works beautifully as a statement about refugees, tolerance and building a community.

The illustrations are a marvel of quiet moments with a lot of the power of the book being the things in the illustrations that go unremarked upon in the text. The illustrations are done in pen and ink with pops of orange color and the deep browns of the capybaras. The wide-eyed capybaras contrast impressively with the white chickens and their delicate life balance.

Profound and remarkable. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.

Catch That Chicken! by Atinuke

Catch That Chicken by Atinuke

Catch That Chicken! by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank (9781536212686)

Lami is the best chicken catcher in her small Nigerian compound. Happily, the compound is full of all kinds of chickens and she helps out by catching them for everyone. She may not be fast at spelling like her sister or fast at braiding hair like her friend, but she is the fastest at catching chickens! But one day, Lami moves too fast to catch a chicken, ignoring everyone telling her to slow down. She chases the chicken right up a baobab tree, toppling from a branch and falling. Her ankles swells up, and now she can’t catch any chickens at all. But her Nana Nadia sits down with her and gets Lami thinking of a new way to catch chickens without the wild chase.

Atinuke is the author of the Anna Hibiscus series and several picture books set in her native Nigeria. Her skill as an oral storyteller always shines in her picture books. This one also reads aloud beautifully, building in pace to a great crescendo before the literal fall. Atinuke uses repeating phrases and sentence structures to create a warm energy throughout the book.

The illustrations will work well for sharing the book with a group. Done in mixed media, the move from long distance images of the compound to being right in the mix of the action with Lami as she dashes after chickens. These are energetic illustrations that perfectly suit the story.

Clever and fun, head on a wild chicken chase with this picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

3 New Picture Books to Build On

Florette by Anna Walker.jpg

Florette by Anna Walker (9780544876835)

When Mae’s family moves to the city, they can’t bring their garden with them. All Mae has around her now are moving boxes and a brick courtyard. She fills the courtyard with chalk drawings of butterflies, grass, and more but it’s all washed away when it rains. She draws daisies, grass and apple trees on the boxes too, but they tip over and are moved away. Mae spots an open space out of her window and leads her mother there, but it’s all pebbles rather than green. On their way back, Mae discovers a florist shop with a window filled with green plants and even one poking out the door. She takes that little end of the plant and from it starts the garden that her family said she would have, just a different one than she expected.

This picture book looks at moving and change through the lens of green space and creating your own solutions for a problem. Mae is an inventive little girl, independent as she leads her mother through a new neighborhood and creative as she finds a solution where others might not see one. The watercolor illustrations show a tall gray city but also one with a river, trees and children waiting to play. Mae sees it as cold and unfriendly, but readers will see new possibilities too. A look at resilience and finding your own way, this picture book is a treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday by Laura Gehl

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Sarah Horne (9781512431308)

A little girl receives a chicken for her birthday instead of the amusement park tickets that she asked her Abuela Lola for multiple times. A chicken is better than some other gifts, like socks, but you have to feed a chicken. The girl looks forward to eating eggs from the chicken, but the chicken is far too busy to lay eggs. The chicken makes friends with the girl’s dog, cat and hamster and soon all of them are too busy as well working for the chicken. Other animals arrive and work too. The chicken invites Abuela Lola to visit and then reveals what she has been working on all this time. It’s a reveal that is much better than socks!

Told in first person by the girl, this picture book has a wonderful tone. Gehl has other characters speak using signs they hold in their wings, paws or hands to communicate. These little asides add a lot of context and add a lot of humor to the book. The illustrations are bright and delightfully zany, filled with patterns, colors and textures. A fresh look at chickens and birthdays, this picture book is a win. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Carolrhoda Books and Raab Associates.)

Old MacDonald Had a Boat by Steve Goetz

Old MacDonald Had a Boat by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban (9781452165059)

This second book about Old MacDonald’s extended adventures continues the fun. Once again Old MacDonald and Mrs. MacDonald are hard at work on their farm. They have their truck  and look they have a new boat. But there’s a lot of work to do before it gets in the water. There are saws to buzz, hammers to bang, torches to blow, paint to roll and much more.

Verse after verse follows the format of the original song and children will love to participate in singing along. Nicely, Mrs. MacDonald uses the power tools with ease and all of the animals help too. The illustrations have a timeless appeal that suits the subject. There is plenty of fun and humor along the way as hammers miss and ski jumps are moved into position. A rousing new version of the beloved song that is perfect for summer days on the water. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

 

 

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead (9780553523225)

An unfinished children’s story by Mark Twain has been completed by the remarkable Steads. Found in the Mark Twain archives in Berkeley, the story was written by Twain for his daughters one night. Only rough notes told the tale to Stead who then worked to complete the entire story, creating both the story itself and a side narrative of Stead hearing the story directly from Twain. The main story is about Johnny, a boy who finds himself poor and alone in a land ruled by a tyrannical king. Johnny receives seeds from a woman, seeds that allow him to speak to animals, something that transforms his life. Accompanied for some of the story by his faithful chicken friend, Johnny discovers the meaning of courage and friendship as he attempts to rescue the prince.

This book tumbles the reader directly into a story that is remarkably familiar and yet distinctly unique too. Stead’s writing is exceptional, building a full story that is robust and captivating using only a scaffolding created by Twain. There is a lovely seamlessness to the writing, incorporating Twain’s and Stead’s writing into one grand book. The nods to folktales are lovely and so are the departures as well.

Erin Stead’s illustrations are fine and detailed. She invites readers into the world that is being built, allows them to meet the animals, shows them the pain and hope tangibly on the page. The illustrations move from portraits to landscapes, from small to large, close to far.

An incredible achievement in children’s books, this one is worthy of awards and I hope receives some! Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner\

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner (9781626723313, Amazon)

Fox is always trying to sneak into the henhouse at the farm and steal a chicken. He’s so hungry, and so very tired of the turnips that the pig provides him after every defeat. No one on the farm is scared of him, particularly the chickens themselves. Fox turns to Wolf to get some tips on being more frightening and getting chickens. Wolf comes up with a plan to steal some eggs from the chickens and hatch their own meals. But Fox gets a lot more than he bargained for when three little chicks hatch from the eggs and suddenly think that Fox is their mother!

This graphic novel is exceptional. Renner uses perfect comedic timing throughout the book. He melds slapstick comedy with real heart throughout the book and gives readers a villainous but incompetent Fox that they can root for. Readers will adore the rabid little chicks who consider themselves foxes rather than chickens. It’s the Wolf that continues to be a shadowy dark force and one that will eventually have to be dealt with.

Renner’s illustrations are done in watercolor and don’t use traditional comic book framing or speech bubbles. Instead he keeps them very simple, using lines to show who is speaking and open spaces to convey a sense of framing each image. The illustrations are energetic and funny as well with the expressions on even the tiny chick’s faces easily understood.

A great pick for children’s graphic novels, this one is very special. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim

preaching-to-the-chickens-by-jabari-asim

Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (InfoSoup)

John Lewis, renowned Civil Rights leader and Congressman, dreamed of becoming a preacher as a child. When he was put in charge of the family’s flock of chickens on their farm, he knew it was a great responsibility. John loved going to church on Sunday and took what he learned in church back to his flock. He would sermonize to them, the chickens mesmerized by his voice. He would also baptize them, speak up for them when they needed a voice and rescue them when they needed help. As he preached the words he learned in church, he put those words into action while tending his flock.

Asim beautifully ties together the lessons in church to actions in caring for others. There is a richness to the writing in this picture book biography, capturing both scripture and the beauty of life on a small farm filled with hard work. This is not a fantasy farm, but one where toil is what makes for a successful harvest. Still, it is a place that grew an activist like John Lewis, who learned about using his voice for a cause right there on the farm with his chickens.

The illustrations by Lewis are done in watercolor, capturing the chicken coop and John himself with just enough detail to convey their simplicity but also their stature. Lewis uses the play of light spectacularly in the book, deftly incorporating shadow and light into John’s childhood sermons.

A beautifully crafted picture book biography that speaks of the power of childhood dreams to create activism and a man with a voice to change generations. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.