Quote of the Month

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

Notable Poultry Notes

To speculate on what our world would be like if all living beings could communicate with each other is always fuel for discussion, research, marvelous fiction and potential questions.  Would they be furious with our lack of care for the environment?  Would they be horrified at the rate of species going extinct?  Would they demand we stop clear-cutting forests?  Would they applaud our recycling efforts or our endeavors to rescue wild and domesticated animals?  Would they be happy to see more people are planting honey bee and butterfly-friendly gardens?

Closer to home, what would our pets have to ask or tell us?  There might be a certain chocolate Labrador retriever who would demand more treats, more chew toys, and a lot more running around outside.  Chicken Talk (Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 15, 2018) written by Patricia MacLachlan with pictures by Jarrett J. Krosoczka follows a brood of hens and one confident rooster who act with comical consequences.

Farmer Otis and his wife, Abby, loved their chickens.  Their children, Willie and Belle, loved them, too.

This shared love extended to their poultry, eleven hens, Beatrix, Bitsy, Grace, Boo, seven named Joyce and a rooster named Pedro, was constant.  Abby was sure to fix lettuce and arugula meals for the fowl family and collect their eggs every day.  The eggs were labeled with the hens' names by the siblings.

The hens enjoyed a life of leisure, resting in chairs on the porch, pecking for tidbits of food in the dirt, listening to the stories Willie and Belle told and watching them read books.  Imagine the surprise greeting the humans one morning when the words


were found written in a pathway.  Otis and Abby came to the only conclusion they could, Trixie (Beatrix) wrote the message.

It was as if the first message opened a door to bottled-up opinions held by the chickens.  Each day another note was discovered.  The nature of the statements revealed their author.  Although the family believed if they told anyone they would be thought a tad bit crazy, the chickens took matters into their own . . . um . . . feet.

An accused mailman decided to seek the truth on his own.  A shocking discovery had the news spreading.  Curious people made for good egg business.  Even after all the Joyces had their say, there was still one chicken that was silent.  When she finally left her two thoughts scrawled across the ground, they were the best of all.

In the masterful hands of Patricia MacLachlan, the impossible not only become possible but it is done so with the utmost charm and good-natured humor.  It's funny when the sentences written by the chickens are the honest truth.  It's even funnier when the family members readily accept their chickens can write and can identify the creator.  The flawless flow of narrative and dialogue elevates the laughter factor.  Here is a passage.

Otis and Abby drove into the driveway and walked up
the hill with shopping bags.
Willie pointed to the words scratched in the dirt.
Trixie strutted over and looked at Otis and Abby with
her bright beady eyes.
"Trixie wrote that sentence," whispered Otis.
"Yes", said Abby.
"Don't tell anyone," said Otis.  "They'll think we're nutty."
Abby nodded.  "I thought Trixie liked arugula."

The canvas of barnyard dirt on the matching and open dust jacket and book case extends over the spine, front to back.  The eight showcased chickens are either looking directly at readers, at the text or ISBN.  The red circles around their eyes increase the animation seen on their facial features while at the same time coordinating with the darker red in the title text and bar at the top of the ISBN.

The opening and closing endpapers are covered in a rusty red. The title page begins the pictorial interpretation of the playfulness and wit found throughout the book.  Along the top are three sets of chicken legs with the lower portion of their bodies.  The text is written "chicken" style as if scribbled in the dirt on the path.

The illustrations by Jarrett J. Krosoczka with their loose lines and colorful washes delineating light and shadow appear to be done in watercolor.  Many of the images are double-page pictures with full-page visuals usually framed in a white border.  Sometimes it's as if we are standing with the characters in the scene and other times it's as if our point of view shifts to looking down on the action.  Readers will find the eyes of the chickens greatly enhance the hilarity especially when coupled with their body positions.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  We can see the farmhouse porch and a bit of the siding and one window.  This is in hues of gray.  The curtains on the window are a light rusty red.  Three wooden porch chairs are placed in a row.  Right in the center of each are three plump white chickens; two apparently in conversation. (I laugh every time I see this.)

You can be sure requests for this book, Chicken Talk written by Patricia MacLachlan with pictures by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, will be frequent.  Who doesn't love to laugh and wonder what animals would say if they could write?  For a story time showcasing chickens you could use Blue ChickenWhat Floats in a Moat?, Bawk & RollHenny, Chickens in Space, My Dog's a Chicken, Snappsy The Alligator And His Best Friend Forever (Probably) and Interrupting Chicken And The Elephant Of SurpriseYou'll want to add this title to your professional and personal collections.

For more information on Jarrett J. Krosoczka and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Jarrett J. Krosoczka maintains a blog, an account on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. (You might want to check out Jarrett's tweets about this book.)  Jarrett J. Krosoczka also has two TED talks you might find interesting.  Here is a link to a short biography on the beloved Patricia MacLachlan at the publisher's website.

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