I have a slightly odd book-pairing today. All three of these books are so lovely and quite enjoyable that I just had to make a grouping, despite the subject being a bit peculiar. Everybody loves to read about chickens, right? The backyard chicken movement seems to be slowing down in popularity news-wise, but I know many who have awesome egg-laying friends pecking around their yards. And chickens make great picture book characters. Their shape and strut give tons of illustration inspiration and they all seem to sport some great attitude. Let’s read three picture books about chickens!
1. My Little Hen by Alice and Martin Provensen, 1973
Oh how dearly I love this sweet little book. The cover alone just makes me sigh with a grin. The story is simple about a little girl who loves a hen who has a baby chick that grows into another lovable hen. The illustrations however are just gorgeous. I will always take time to rave over Alice and Martin Provensen and here they show off immensely. All of the illustrations are bordered in sweet little frames and the color palette is intensely warm with browns, yellows and reds balanced by hints of blues. The Provensens’ characters are charming as usual and have the lovely wispy lines about them. In addition to the delightful illustrations, the text is hand-lettered on every page. And it is in cursive which, if you haven’t noticed, is a dying art. Travis from 100 Scope Notes recently brought up the readability of cursive in picture books too and while I agree on one level, I think it is divine in this book. It gives the story such class and a keepsake feel. This will just have to be a book that an adult has to enjoy with a child and by the time the child can read it on their own, they’ll probably have it memorized anyway. If you love the Provensens, chickens, or just plain breathtaking illustrations, do yourself a favor and look this one up.
2. Peggy by Anna Walker, 2012
I have been waiting two years to see this book. I did not forget about it since falling in love with the book trailer and I had to wait for it to import into the U.S. from the Australian market. Oh, it did not disappoint! It is quirky, marvelously illustrated and witty. Anna Walker has a sweet style bordered with lots of subtle and not-so-subtle humor. Peggy is a chicken of course. She has a disastrous wind mishap that sends her far away from home and exploring the big city. The illustrations have a soft painted style but also a surprising addition of collage every so often. I’m adding Anna Walker to my new loves list for illustration and I hope you do too!
3. The Chicken of the Family by Mary Amato, illustrated by Delphine Durand, 2008
Finally in our chicken trio is this humorous story about siblings, chickens and family. Henrietta is a quirky little girl, the youngest sister of three, and often the victim in her sisters’ tricks. She unfortunately believes her sisters’ latest taunts that she is actually a chicken and resigns herself to a life in a barnyard only to find a surprising place of acceptance among the chickens. This is a bizarrely sweet story about love and acceptance as well as a good reminder about words and picking on the little one. And the illustrations are excellent. I’m also a big fan of Delphine Durand’s work and find it completely different from most of the illustrators that I gravitate towards. She has a strong cartoon style, especially with the eyes, but her color palettes are bold and playful with a definite side of whimsy in the patterns and feminine leanings of color. I can’t get over her strutting chickens and all the marvelous details she places in her backgrounds, even sometimes just with flowers. I find this to be a wonderful read, and a perfect surprise ending to our unique chicken grouping.
Who knew chickens were such versatile creatures? I love seeing them illustrated in multiple ways and with vastly different stories to accompany them. Any other chicken books I should know about? Happy strutting, I mean, reading!