It all begins with an acorn. At any given time during the year, some months more than others, acorns fall. The ground is apt to be carpeted with them. You can silently stand in the forest, listening to their soft plunking. How else do they make their way into the dirt and grow into mighty oaks?
In the realm of folklore there is a tale told of an acorn and a chicken. The fowl goes by the name of Henny Penny, Chicken Licken, or Chicken Little. It is a story with alternate versions, endings and meanings. Recently a rousing rendition of the narrative emerged, rising above other variants. Chicken Little The Real And Totally True Tale (Scholastic Press, May 5, 2020) written and illustrated by Sam Wedelich depicts a chicken with a mind of her own, unwilling to bend to expected norms.
WHO ARE YOU CALLING LITTLE?
I am NOT LITTLE!
I am PETITE!
Chicken Little continues her assessment of the term little by further defining the implications of its use. She emphatically claims her lack of fear of anything. As she concludes her monologue, something falls sharply on top of her head with a loud, resounding
As might be expected, she issues a questioning exclamation and hides. In a few moments, she appears and begins to investigate. What hit her head? She is looking for a logical reason. As her mind wanders, she wonders if the sky itself is falling.
She approaches the sky and starts a conversation. The sky denies it's falling even when Chicken Little offers examples of things that descend from the sky. Still on her ladder and chatting with the sky, a chicken friend walks past her. Replying to the friend's question, Chicken Little inadvertently alarms the other chicken.
This chicken races back to the coop with impossible but believed news. All occupants begin to run around willy-nilly with cries of
THE SKY IS FALLING!
Chicken Little tries her hardest to present facts, but they reject her pleas. When they announce their desire to cut the fence and flee, she has no choice. With the use of her trusty ladder and a megaphone, sense is shouted at the gathered barnyard birds. This leads to more anxious attention, but ultimately proves a previous point made by the petite poultry.
When Chicken Little's words start on the title page, we know this is going to be an extraordinary story. Sam Wedelich gives her character courage to speak her truth and to seek it as well. Using a mix of first-person narrative, dialogue and connecting text, laden with humorous language and bits of alliteration, a tale unfolds with complete exhilaration from beginning to end. Here is a passage.
Chicken Little tried to
corral them into the coop so
she could explain.
But the chickens refused to
We are introduced to the highly engaging, limited color palette on the front of the book case. Look at Chicken Little in her red boots and large, round-rimmed red glasses with just a bit of red on her head. This petite gal is a no-nonsense force in search of a profound position. Chicken Little and the main title text are varnished. To the left, on the back, readers are presented with information usually found on the front and back flaps of a dust jacket. Here, too, like the front, we are welcomed with Sam Wedelich's special brand of humor via a checklist. Chicken Little speaks to us after we read the list. You will undoubtedly laugh out loud.
On the opening and closing endpapers is a pattern created in two shades of golden yellow. There are acorns and bandages and Chicken Little in a variety of positions during different activities. On the title page is a presentation similar to the front of the book case, but this time Chicken Little is speaking in protest with her hands, wings, on her hips.
The illustrations by Sam Wedelich rendered digitally are highly animated and playful. White space is used to great effect. All the lettering is done by hand by Sam Wedelich. When Chicken Little speaks it is shown in golden speech bubbles with white lettering.
Most of the images of Chicken Little bring the reader close to the situation and the characters. At first when Chicken Little is on the ladder speaking to the sky, she is wearing a clear helmet covering her entire head. She is taking no chances on getting bonked again. Every layout and its elements are designed to enhance the text and elevate the comedy and the message.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page. Chicken Little is trying to rationalize whether the sky is falling. She has just stated it to be ridiculous, but on this page, she questions that thinking
Or is it?
She is standing in her little red boots and wearing her red, round-rimmed glasses. Her hands are placed on either side of her face. Her eyes are wide open with worry. Her beak is wide open also. This is a picture of supreme anxiety.
In this portrayal of a timeless classic Chicken Little The Real and Totally True Tale written and illustrated by Sam Wedelich, we are treated to a delightfully fresh depiction of what can happen when we fail to verify facts and run with unsubstantiated conclusions. For a lively story time pair this with Chicken Little by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley, Chicken Big by Keith Graves and Brave Chicken Little by Robert Byrd. I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections. We need this petite personality with her positive outlook and the laughter this book brings to readers.
To learn more about Sam Wedelich and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Sam Wedelich has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Sam Wedelich is featured at author Tara Lazar's Writing For Kids (While Raising Them) and KidLit411. Sam Wedelich reads this title during a Scholastic Facebook Live event. She is one of the guests at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's weekly Book Joy Live event on Facebook. Enjoy the book trailer/author video!