Book Review: Chicks Run Wild By Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen & Ward Jenkins

Truth be told, bedtime books are often cheesy, mushy, and really heavy-handed. There are some good ones, and the sleep hypnosis types certainly have a place, even if it is just wishful thinking. But I’m constantly on the look-out for stellar, atypical, really fun go-to-bed books that take the experience to a whole new level. Mission accomplished. Allow me to present a riotous book about little chicks who just aren’t quite ready to drift off and their mama’s less-than-traditional, surprising to everyone, idea. This book is a brilliantly fun, dare I say wild, good time. Here is Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Ward Jenkins, 2011.

The story is told in lovely rhyme about a mama hen and her five little chicks. Every night, sweet Mama kisses each chick and bids them goodnight…

Chicks 3

…but when the door closes, chaos ensues.

Chicks 4

Wiggling, giggling, and playing hard, not a sleepy eye in sight for the crazy brood. When a hint of Mama returning catches their ears, they are back in bed, quick as a wink, pretending to be sound asleep. But Mama knows better and the first warning is issued.

Chicks 5

It won’t be the last unfortunately, but as the book progresses, Mama’s tactics are a surprise for everyone and bring a smile on and off the page. I certainly will not give the rest away, but let’s just say that those apples don’t fall far from the tree. If anyone knows how to really be wild, it would be a big Mama of five rambunctious chicks.

Chicks 6

I can’t help but say that I am indeed wild about this book. The timing and pace are perfect and the rhymes are excellent for reading aloud. I say often that I’m a big fan of rhyming books, but I don’t think I stress enough how very hard rhymes are. I love the text here. The rhymes are not the predictable fare and there are great words used quite aptly like “sashay.” It is not often that I get to say that word, let alone read it.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is a delight of an author. Her daily life with three kids serves as a constant source of inspiration for her books and she calls this one autobiographical, something I get the feeling a lot of parents understand. We read this one at storytime this weekend, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the many knowing smiles and chuckles that came from the mamas in the room. I also had the amazing pleasure of hearing Ms. Bardhan-Quallen speak at the Children’s Festival of Reading this weekend, and I bring my honest opinion that she is every bit as fun, witty, and genuine as her books want you to believe. She shares secrets about herself on her website testifying to the fact that she is a real, honest to goodness person. As a matter of fact, she even signed my book!

Chicks 2

But, we’re not done talking about this book yet, oh no. There are illustrations to be drooled over. I promise that this space only gives you the tiniest hint of the loveliness to behold in this book’s pages. I’m a big admirer of Ward Jenkins work and his blog where he posts “art, animation, and anything aesthetically pleasing to the eye.” I’ve discovered several book illustrators that I love via his collections. This is one of four books he has illustrated so far (see two on his site, and two more recent ones on Amazon) and I’m just enamored with his color palettes and the details he puts into each page. There are so many Easter eggs in this book like the decor in some rooms and a video on a particular page with a play on the title. This not only enhances the reading experience for the adult as well, but it shows how much fun he must have had as he created this art. Every page is brimming with color, texture, pattern and I’m just amazed at his technique. I also deeply love that little chick with the big, round glasses!

As a new mama myself, I haven’t had the parental experience that I’m sure adds a new level to reading this book. Nor would I be encouraging the um… disobedience of the little chicks. But, I love books and I think they are an excellent way to experience new things and live vicariously through all sorts of people and circumstances. Jules said some great things on naughty children in children’s literature over on a recent review that I love and agree with and perhaps I’ll discuss my own thoughts on it more in the future. But for now, I love this book. I love the chicks and I love the silly, surprising mama. I sincerely hope there are many wildly sweet times like this with my own little chick. And here’s to your own lovely, quiet, and occasionally raucous bedtimes.

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