Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Chicken...A Girl...A Village

Growing up in town our mailbox was attached to the house.  During the summer we would listen for the sound of it being opened and closed when a delivery was made.  Now, living outside of town, my mailbox is alongside the road.  The mailman comes and goes without my knowledge except when I have packages too big to fit inside that mailbox alongside the road.  Yesterday was one of those days when packages were left on my doorstep.

Two of the three packages were expected; the third was not.  I was able (with my expert sleuthing skills learned from the intrepid Nancy Drew and her series) to track down the book fairy responsible for two new titles finding their way to my home.  One of those books, A Hen For Izzy Pippik ( Kids Can Press, March 2012) written by Aubrey Davis with illustrations by Marie Lafrance, is on the ballot for the Great Lakes Great Books Award Chosen By Michigan Readers for 2013-2014.  

Shaina perched on the porch with her eyes shut and listened.  

What this little girl hears are the sounds of her family, Mama sewing, Baby Pinkus banging on a pot and Grandpa whistling a favorite song.  By extending her stillness she can make out noises from the market across the street; a market not as busy as it used to be.  What she does not hear is a chicken walking toward her.

She feels it though as it pecks her toe.  Eyes quickly opening she sees a beautiful hen, covered in emerald green feathers with golden speckles, and a ruby read comb.  Shaina realizes the hen is lost.  Picking it up she runs to the market to find its owner.  She sees a broken crate with a sign reading Izzy Pippik Chickens and Eggs.  

Wasting no time, hen and crate under her arms she heads home.  Mama and Grandpa think of delicious food dishes at the sight of this chicken.  Shaina is aghast; a chicken not belonging to them can't be eaten.  Mama agrees to allow it to stay for a short time until Mr. Pippik returns.  Grandpa fixes the crate and Shaina names her Yevka.

The next morning with a bawk, Yevka lays an egg.  Mama and Grandpa are thinking scrambled and poached.  Shaina is thinking neither is right.  The egg belongs to Izzy Pippik too.  Within a matter of weeks there is another egg and another and another until twelve chicks are running around the house causing general chaos.

One morning after they create a mess to top all messes, Mama, fit to be tied, shoos them outside into the village.  With business not so good, people have not been exactly eating like royalty.  They begin to chase them thinking of gastronomical goodness.  Shaina is frantic, scolding them for thinking of eating chickens that belong to Mr. Pippik instead of them.  Luckily Grandpa comes to her rescue.

Those chicks grow to have chicks.  And those chicks grow to have chicks.  Izzy Pippik still has not returned.  There are chickens all over town.  People are not happy.  Shaina stands strong knowing someday, yes someday, Izzy Pippik will return.

Unexpectedly people start to visit to their community to see the huge flock of chickens.  Business picks up, the villagers are happier.  Everyone is coming except for Izzy Pippik.  HONK! HONK!

A truck drives into town; a truck with Izzy Pippik written on the driver's door.  Shaina is thrilled she can now give what is not hers back.  The townspeople are downcast. The hen, Yevka, is not so happy either.  And Mr. Pippik?  Well...he does not linger leaving with a wave.  Shaina closes her eyes once again and listens.  Bawk...bawk

Not only is Aubrey Davis an author but he has been a performing storyteller for more than thirty years.  His command of story structure, pause, flow and repetition of key phrases, is marvelous as it unfolds.  Blending narrative with dialogue the personalities of all the characters emerge, endearing the readers to them and the tale.  As Shaina is portrayed it is her strength of conviction, her courage to continue in the right, which benefits all.

Rendered in pencil, colored in Photoshop, the illustrations of Marie Lafrance for most of the title, are spread across the gutter edge to edge over two pages.  Delicate lines, patterned textures and fine details  are features of her work.  A light color palette in blues, greens, grays and browns with small spots of red generate an uplifting feeling in all of the pictures.  Shaina's personality is reflected in each of them.

Tiny dots for eyes, expressive eyebrows and mouths convey every emotion, even on the chickens.  To the careful reader humor is evident; Mama and Grandpa pots in hand when they see the first egg, a nest on the window sill with an egg sitting in it, the red bow in Shaina's hair looking like the chicken's red comb or a chicken perched on a shopkeeper's head.  One of my favorite illustrations is pictured on the front cover and on the back (when she first brings the chicken home as her Mama and Grandpa stand in the open doorway looking outside).

Heartwarming from beginning to end, A Hen For Izzy Pippik exquisitely written by Aubrey Davis with lively pictures by Marie Lafrance is a tale to be read or told again and again; one reading will never be enough.  To view a series of illustrations from this title follow this link to a site created by Marie Lafrance.  The P J Library: Jewish Bedtime Stories and Songs site has created a reading guide linked here.  

Life is full of surprises as Shaina and her community discovered and as I did yesterday when an unexpected box was delivered to my doorstep.

No comments:

Post a Comment