Four picture books worth clucking about
The popularity of raising backyard chickens and other poultry is on the rise in our part of the world (and probably your part, too), which lends new relevance to children’s books about our feathered friends. We’ve taken a look at a flock of new picture books featuring chickens and ducks and selected four of the best. These books show poultry in their daily lives: laying eggs, taking care of little ones, learning lessons and bringing joy to their human caretakers.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
In Mama Hen’s Big Day, written and illustrated by Jill Latter, Mama Hen sets out to lay an egg in the “loveliest, safest, most peaceful place of all.” But she realizes that finding the best place isn’t an easy task. Among the places she rejects are a rattlesnake’s cave, a patch of tall grass where a fox lies in wait and a pile of leaves that turns out to be a porcupine’s nest. Determined to find a safe place for her egg, Mama Hen searches the whole town until she finds a soft patch of grass “on the tippy-top of the tallest mountain.” But her most important discovery is that the best place to lay her egg is wherever she is. Balancing the hen’s anxious search are happy watercolor blues, greens and reds and loose outlines to create a playful atmosphere. Mama Hen’s Big Day tells the simple tale of a mother whose greatest gift to her newborn egg is her presence.
Janet Morgan Stoeke continues her delightful series about the Loopy Coop Farm with The Loopy Coopy Hens: Letting Go. Little readers who are new to the series can jump right into the hens’ adventures without the need for catching up. Apples are falling from the tree and that can only mean one thing for these anxious hens: a fox must be throwing them. The hens summon the rooster who runs from the problem, but Dot is determined to get to the bottom of the apple throwing. She dons a helmet and climbs to the top. What she finds is a beautiful view of the countryside and no fox. After Midge and Pip join her in the tree to survey a beautiful view, all three decide to let go like apples and fall ungracefully to the ground. Fun sketch-like pencil outlines and fresh pastel colors accompany the antics of these ditzy chicks as they discover that apples fall from trees and so can they.
Nora’s Chicks, written by Newbery winner Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Kathryn Brown, uses lyrical text and muted watercolors to tell Nora’s story. In Russia, there were beautiful hills and trees, but on Nora’s new farm in America, only one cottonwood grows by the river. Her brother Milo is not old enough to talk, and her neighbor Susannah is too shy to call a friend. “I need something all my own,” Nora tells her parents. When Nora’s father brings home some chicks and two geese for eating, Nora insists on keeping them as pets. Later, one of the treasured chicks goes missing, an event that serves as a catalyst to bring shy Susannah and Nora together as friends. Nora’s Chicks is the heartwarming story of one girl’s assimilation to America, and a reminder that animals can be true friends in lonely times.
Based on a true story, Lucky Ducklings recounts a real-life duckling rescue in Montauk, New York. Nancy Carpenter’s illustrations pay homage to Robert McCloskey’s classic Make Way for Ducklings, though her bright colors and detailed faces instill the book with a modern sensibility. Eva Moore’s narrative focuses on the struggle of baby ducklings caught in a storm drain and the rush of the townspeople to help them. With each new development in the crisis, Moore repeats a phrase: “That could have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t, because…” This structure propels the story along nicely and gives readers and listeners a sense of just how lucky these ducklings really were. Eventually, Mama and her ducklings make it safely back to their pond, and we learn in a brief note that the town later replaced the drain for safer duck crossings. Lucky Ducklings is an inspirational tale of cooperation and a quiet meditation on the importance of family and community.