May is apparently National Egg Month, and May 14th is Dance Like a Chicken Day. So all this week, this “chick” is featuring chickens! Yesterday I counted chickens, today I’m presenting some big chickens!
With Chicken Big, readers are treated to an adaptation of the original Chicken Little story, right down to the allusion the title provides. The cover is classic, with just the feet and oversized body of the chicken appearing. Don’t skip the back cover or the cover pages, where the three normal size chickens and the lone rooster whine about being on the back cover, make a beeline for the front, and debate what the book should be called. Initially I wasn’t thrilled with the illustrations, but they grew on me and by the end I was sold on them. While the three normal sized chickens (identified as the small, smaller and smallest chicken) are not very expressive, it’s the big chicken who readers are drawn to as his trepidation about the situation is shown through his eyes and face. The three chickens have no idea what to make of him, and in a combination of Seven Blind Mice meets Chicken Little, they continually assume he’s something he’s not with increasing absurdity (a SWEATER?!). At last they are able accept the fact that he is indeed a chicken after he saves their eggs from the fox because surely nothing else could be “so smart, so kind, so warm, and so brave.” While parents might echo the big chicken’s comment “This is getting ridiculous,” children will love it, just like they love it when I ask them if they’re looking for an elephant or a book.
Title: Big Chickens
Author: Leslie Helakoski
Illustrator: Henry Cole
Pages: Picture Book
Publisher/Date: Dutton Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, c2006.
Publication Date: February 2006
This next book seems to be meant for older kindergartener and early elementary students. The vocabulary is certainly a deterrent for the younger kindergartener and toddlers. In Big Chickens, four chickens race away from their coop after viewing a fox, and they must face several other fears including cows, ditches, and crossing a running stream in a boat before summoning the courage to return home. The illustrations by Henry Cole are really what sell the story, with each chicken’s expressive eyes, mouth, and body language making it blatantly obvious that they would rather run for the hills than face their fears. The writing, while bubbly, is a little vague as to how the chickens get into one scrape after another, as they repeatedly jostle each other into trouble. But it’s the language and the delectable use of words that has me coming back, as they provide a rhyme and rhythm that readers might have to practice in order to avoid tripping over their tongue. Originally, the chickens “pwocked, flocked and rocked. They knocked into themselves.” The rhyming continues with tutted, putted, flutted and butted, sputtered, shuddered, muttered and fluttered, and flurried, hurried, worried, and scurried. Alliteration also abounds as the chicks picked, pecked and pocked and by the end they are four “dirty, dusty, drippy, dazed, daring chickens”. Language arts classes will rejoice, but probably not the best for story time. Fans might be interested in the two sequels, Big Chickens Fly the Coop and Big Chickens Go to Town.