May is apparently National Egg Month, and May 14th is Dance Like a Chicken Day. So all this week, this “chick” is featuring chickens! First up are Tough Chicks by Cece Meng.

Title: Tough Chicks
Author: Cece Meng
Illustrator: Melissa Suber
ISBN: 9780618824151
Pages: 32 pages (Picture Book)
Publisher: Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2009.
Publication Date: Feb. 16, 2009

“From the moment Mama Hen’s eggs burst open, she knew she was dealing with some pretty tough chicks.” (4)

Mama Hen has three little chicks, named Penny, Polly, and Molly. Although their names are reminiscent of Peter Rabbit’s sisters (Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail), these chicks are nothing like Beatrix Potter’s docile bunnies. They flop in the mud, they swing from cow tails, and they look under the hood of the tractor. The other animals and even the farmer provide the refrain of telling Mama Hen “Make them be good!”, to which Mama Hen consistently responds “They are good!” It’s after the tractor begins to roll down the hill, straight for the hen-house, that the chicks are able to prove their skills and that they can be good and tough chicks.

You know from the beginning that Penny, Polly, and Molly are not your ordinary chicks by the blue feathers that stick out of their heads, chin, and tail. Mama Hen isn’t your ordinary chicken either, with blue tipped wings. The expressive eyes, faces, and bodies of the animals also make it easy for non-readers to see the emotion and annoyance that the rest of the barn yard feels. The three chicks are fast (shown by their roadrunner-esque feet), adventurous, intelligent, and artistic (shown by their nest-building and scratching for grain lessons, which go horribly wrong).

While readers might wonder why the pigs were in charge of teaching the chicks how to build nests, the rest of the story flows nicely. I especially loved the exclamations of the animals when the runaway tractor approaches.

“BAAAAAAAD IDEA!” bleated the sheep.
MOOOOOOOVE!” bellowed the cow.
“WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DOOOOOOO?” crowed the rooster.

I can just hear myself reading this passage to a group of preschoolers. The rooster’s question even has the right number of syllables to fit the rhythm of his more traditional “Cock-a-doodle-doo”. It serves as a great reminder that while some people might say there are girl things and boy things, in this realm a trio of chicks can do whatever they set their minds to… even stopping a runaway tractor.

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