My Dog’s a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari and Anne Wilsdorf (InfoSoup)
Lula Mae really wants a puppy, but her mother tells her that times are hard and she will just have to make do. So Lula Mae takes a look around and decides that maybe a chicken could be a good dog. She finds the most likely chicken, one that is confident, and grabs it. She names the “dog” Pookie and puts a hair ribbon on its head. Her mother insists that whatever Lula Mae calls it, she’s not to bring it into the house. Soon Pookie is starting to act like a dog. She shepherds the other chickens around. She acts like a guard dog when Cousin Tater threatens Lula Mae and the baby with a garter snake. Pookie even manages to perform a search and rescue when Baby Berry goes missing.
This fanciful picture book is brimming with down home warmth. The book’s premise is wonderfully quirky, the substitution of a chicken for a dog. Readers will expect it to go very badly, but this book takes a more positive spin. Even as Pookie starts to act like a dog, she is still clearly a chicken reacting the way a chicken would in that situation. The humans interpret it differently, adding to the fun of the entire story.
Wilsdorf’s illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. They are filled with bright colors and show a vibrant rural lifestyle filled with chickens, woodpiles, and crops. Some of the illustrations show the paths of people (and chickens) running around and convey the panic of trying to find Baby Berry. Sharp-eyed children will spot him by following Pookie’s path.
Funny and entirely individual, this picture book is about making do and following your own heart. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.
In, Over and On the Farm by Ethan Long
Following his Geisel Award-winning Up, Tall and High, Long returns to prepositions. Four animals friends have adventures on the farm in this easy reader. Broken into three short stories, each story focuses on one pair of prepositions. Chicken can’t get in the coop, so she is left out in the rain, until she realizes that everyone else is warm and dry in there, so she orders them to get out. In the next story, Chicken can’t get over the fence or go under it either. Luckily Cow has another solution for her, go around! In the last story, Pig is on the tractor and Cow and Goat join him there. When they are all on the tractor though, it starts to roll away and soon they are all thrown off. But they want to go on it again.
Long is a very prolific author and excels at creating books for beginning readers which are a winning mix of humor and simplicity. It also helps that he is a natural storyteller and so his short stories in the book have the feel of being complete tales despite their brevity. His characters are also universal, in their group and individual dynamics. The book is entirely relatable by children and will be enjoyed in classrooms looking at prepositions as well as by individual readers.
Long’s illustrations are funny and filled with a cartoon appeal. The colors are candy-bright and even gray rainy days are tinged in lavender. The incorporation of a few flaps to lift is also very appealing for young readers who will enjoy that the twist for each story is revealed in a physical way.
Silly and very easy to read, these stories have massive appeal. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl (InfoSoup)
Sonya was given three tiny chicks by her father. It was her job to take good care of them. At first, the chicks liked in the house in a cardboard box while Sonya’s parents fixed up the coop in the yard. Soon they grew into pullets and were living outside. They followed Sonya everywhere she went. She took good care of them, giving them food and water and cleaning out their coop. They grew into three large happy hens and started laying eggs. Then one night, Sonya was woken by squawking in the chicken coop. She headed outside and one of her chickens was no longer there, only two hens were up in the rafters hiding. Sonya’s father explained that a fox had gotten the hen and told her about why he would have taken her. Sonya and her family had a funeral for the hen and worked to repair the coop so that a fox could not get in again. Then the circle started once more when one of the eggs began to hatch.
Wahl embraces honesty about the death of pets and grief in this picture book. Beautifully told, the loss of the chicken may surprise some readers. It is handled with care and truth, the father in the story explaining that the fox has to hunt for his family in order to feed his kits. Sonya is allowed time to express her feelings, supported by her family. The ending of the book has a new chick joining Sonya’s flock and her willing to continue on despite the loss. It’s a lesson in resilience.
The illustrations in this picture book are impressive. Done with watercolor, collage and colored pencil, they are vibrant and richly colored. The images show a mixed-race family in a rural setting, something that isn’t seen enough in picture books. They have a great textural feel and also depict a fully-realized home and family with most of the pictures taking up an entire page with their rich colors.
An honest look at grief and loss of a pet, this picture book is a winner. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
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.