Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Fowl Play

How did the chicken wake up?  It had an alarm cluck. 
What do you call a chicken crossing the road?  Poultry in motion
Why did the chicken cross the road?  To bock traffic!
Why did the turkey cross the road?  To prove he wasn't chicken!

Those four questions and answers are only a few in a multitude of fowl hilarity. Chickens and their feathered friends have long been the object of comedy routines, jokes, and tall tales.  They've even made it into the world of polka with the famous chicken dance.  Be prepared to grin, giggle, and guffaw as you enjoy this trio of titles recently released.

In two previous books, Interrupting Chicken and Interrupting Chicken And The Elephant Of Surprise, author illustrator David Ezra Stein introduces and entertains readers with the actions and conversations between a lively little red chicken and her patient papa.  In the third title, Interrupting Chicken: Cookies For Breakfast (Candlewick Press, October 26, 2021), the delightful duo take readers once more into the world of the classic written word.  There is nothing like a craving for cookies to get your morning off to an exuberant start . . . for some.

It was bright and early for the little red chicken.

Papa is not ready to wake up on a Saturday morning until little red chicken mentions breakfast in bed.  Cookies are not what he has in mind.  There will be no cookies for breakfast, but Papa reading a book aloud is the next best thing.

Little red chicken snuggles in next to her father eager for him to begin reading nursery rhymes.  Not more than one is read before she interrupts with her own version of completing There Was An Old Woman.  There might be a mention of cookies. 

Again Papa says there will be no cookies for breakfast.  You won't believe what vitamin little red chicken says are in cookies!  This scenario is repeated two more times as the reading aloud resumes.  The charming youngster inserts cookies into nursery rhymes, a proverb, and her own brand of common sense.

Papa is getting a little stressed and asks for a break.  Our clever protagonist pens and draws her own RIME.  A loud sound puts a stop to the comfy morning cuddle between this father and his daughter.  Papa has a most delicious reply to the noise.  

When we read David Ezra Stein's first sentence, we get a hint of how the morning is going to be.  The contrast between the on-fire vigor of the child and her father's desire to keep sleeping are typical and comedic.  Between their laugh-out-loud funny conversations and the nursery rhymes, most reworded by the little red chicken, an engaging cadence is created.  (I counted the mention of cookies and cookie at least twenty-five times.)  Here is a passage.

"Yes, Papa?"
"I told you, we can't have cookies so early."
"I heard the early bird gets the cookie."

"That's worm."
"Well, you can have a worm, but I'd rather have a cookie!"
Papa yawned.  "We'll have breakfast soon.
Let's just read a little longer."
"Okay!" said the little red chicken. 


watercolor, water-soluble crayon, china markers, pen, opaque white ink, and tea

the artwork of David Ezra Stein asks us to jump into the story with as much liveliness as the little red chicken does onto her father's bed.  On the open and matching dust jacket and book case, her enthusiasm is on full display.  Their humorous conversation is already beginning on the front, right side.  To the left, on the back, with the bedroom wallpaper as a canvas, we read the words of the little red chicken.

I sure like cookies a lot!

The speech balloons on the front and back are varnished.

A bright spring green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the informal title page, David Ezra Stein starts his pictorial interpretation.  The little red chicken is carrying a kitchen chair somewhere.  She has dropped her toy stuffed elephant.  A double-page picture spans edge to edge for the formal title page.  It is a wonderful view of the interior of the chickens' kitchen.  Our eyes move from the refrigerator across an arched doorway into another room, and then to the stove with pots and pans hanging from a rack under a hood to a window with a table and chairs, and finally to cupboards on the far right.

On the left side prior to the first single-page picture and on the right side of the final single-page picture, David Ezra Stein has placed a page using the bedroom wallpaper, green with large yellow flowers with reddish orange centers.  Throughout the book, the images range in size from smaller visuals on a single page to illustrations crossing the gutter to full-page pictures and two-page pictures.

The two-page pictures are the open book Papa is reading to little red chicken.  Included on these pages are her appearances when she interrupts and adds her own dialogue between the nursery rhyme characters.  The limited color palette of the nursery rhyme pages contrasts with excellence to the full-color illustrations of the little red chicken, her papa and their home.  The facial expressions on Papa, the little red chicken, and the nursery rhyme characters are side-splitting.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a picture which crosses the gutter.  On the left, we see Papa in bed with his little red chicken.  She is holding an open book and a pencil.  Her toy stuffed elephant is nestled with Papa on his right side.  The box of cookies is on the left side of the little red hen.  A light glows near her on a bedside table.  The bed crosses the gutter.  Taped on the foot of the bed, we are shown affectionate drawings by the little red chicken for her papa.  Her art materials are scattered on the floor near an ottoman where she was working.  

This third book, Interrupting Chicken: Cookies For Breakfast written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, is as enchanting and funny as the previous two titles.  You can expect to hear a chorus of "read it again" every time you finish reading this either one-on-one or to a group of listeners.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about David Ezra Stein and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  David Ezra Stein has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  David Ezra Stein is interviewed at Judy Newman at Scholastic.  At the publisher's website, you can access and download a nine-page series activity kit.  At Penguin Random House, you can view many happy interior images.

According to Merriam-Webster, there are three major definitions for the word magic.  They involve a special power welded by special people, tricks, and influence or skill.  The word impossible is tied to two of these definitions.  What is not mentioned in any of these meanings is the word chicken.  Perhaps the people at Merriam-Webster need to have a chat with two creative talents, author Adam Rubin and illustrator Adam Rex.  This duo's new collaboration, Gladys The Magic Chicken (Putnam G. P. Putnam's Sons, October 26, 2021) gives a new interpretation to that word, magic.  You'll be laughing before you've even finished the first page.

a long, long, long. long, looong time ago.
Three thousand years before your grandma's
grandma's grandma was born.

In these long ago times there lived a chicken, a dancing chicken.  Gladys, the dancing chicken, was a follower.  Each day she went to the pasture with the sheep, a dog, and a shepherd.  One day, for the first time in his short life, this shepherd saw his reflection in a puddle.  He was stunned.

When Gladys comforted the boy, he wished to be beautiful.  Years passed and that boy became a strong, handsome man.  When a traveling peddler came to town, that man saw himself in a mirror.  (He had never seen a mirror.)  Again, he was stunned.  He kissed Gladys and declared her to be 

"A MAGIC, WISH-GRANTING CHICKEN." (At this point, I am laughing out loud.)

The wily peddler acquired Gladys by giving the shepherd that mirror.  Gladys went from place to place with that businessman who was offering her for sale.  She did not sell and that man made a wish.  Poof! No more Gladys.

Gladys was shocked as she moved from a cooking pot to the arms of a heroic swordsman.  From there she became a gift and the object of a hard-to-forget song.  Before this chicken, said to be magical, could really get settled at a royal palace, she found herself on the high seas with a band of pirates.  What?!

No sooner than one could think avast me hearties, Gladys landed on a deserted beach which was not really deserted because this was Gladys, after all.  A fancy, footwork frolic was observed and a wild ride caused Gladys to yield yet another of her eggs.  That brought Gladys to the best conclusion for a dancing chicken who might or might not have had special powers.  Magical, indeed.

Some of the best kinds of stories are circle stories.  Adam Rubin has written this one masterfully.  The setting he fashions, Ancient Times, allows him to play with language and historical facts.  His named cast of characters describes their occupations and sometimes their characteristics like the

Long-Bearded Bandit and the

Learned Princess.

His blend of narrative, dialogue, and authorial asides is marvelous, just like Gladys.  You will be swept away by his word choices brimming with action.  Here is a passage.


The Learned Princess shrieked as a Fearsome Pirate swung through the window, flipped through 
the air, and landed on the floor with a sword clenched in her teeth.  Gladys let an egg go ploop.

"YOU'RE COMING WITH ME." threatened the Fearsome Pirate.

"HOORAY!" squealed the Learned Princess.

HOORAY? asked the Fearsome Pirate.  . . .

You will be hard-pressed to look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case without bursting into giggles.  Gladys, in all her dancing glory, is looking a tad uncomfortable at the accolades she is receiving and at being placed on a pedestal.  Her eyes here and throughout the book convey more than words ever could.  Gladys, the flower at her feet, and the title text are varnished.

To the left of the spine, on the back, a continuation of the Ancient Times brushed golden tones acts as a canvas.  Here is a very, very, very old stone portrait of a chicken with the face of a wise man or deity.  It is placed in the upper, left-hand corner like it is holding up a roof at the top of a pillar.

There are four horizontal panels separated by black lines on the opening and closing endpapers.  In these panels Gladys is featured, symbolically, in her travels.  The drawing is precise, almost like it has been cut and stenciled.  In the opening endpapers it is black on a rich deep pink.  On the closing endpapers, the elements are repeated on metallic dark gold.  These pink and gold colors are used again in a beautiful design decision.

The title page is done in hues of pink, purple, blue and gold.  It showcases an old city with lightning coming from the cloud above it.  Gladys sits in that cloud amid the title text.

Drawn digitally, these illustrations by Adam Rex are guaranteed to have readers pausing at every page turn beginning with the map opposite the dedication and publication information page.  The map is titled


The pictures throughout are replete with details and bold, bright colors. 

Single-page images blend to the next one.  Smaller illustrations grouped two to a page accentuate pacing.  Double-page pictures are dramatic.  When the ancient language is spoken it is placed in narrow scrolls with a different font.  White space, dark space, and perspective are magic in the skilled hands of Adam Rex.

One of my many favorite pictures is a single-page illustration.  It is a dark scene in hues of blue.  We are in the dungeon of the palace of the Purple Pooh-bah.  There is stonework, stairs, and archways leading into seemingly endless hallways.  On the right side a heavy grate is placed in the floor.  From the grate stretch two narrow scrolls.  They read:


cried the Long-Bearded


Prepare to laugh yourself silly reading Gladys The Magic Chicken written by Adam Rubin with illustrations by Adam Rex.  The combination of text and artwork makes this a classic tale to be told again and again.  You might find yourself humming a tune and singing the words ending with


Make sure you have a copy on your personal and professional bookshelves.

By following the link attached to Adam Rubin's and Adam Rex's names, you can access their respective websites to learn more about them and their other work.  Adam Rubin has an account on Twitter.  He also has a more adult website here.  Adam Rex has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view some interior images.  This inventive duo are interviewed about this book at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production, by Betsy Bird.

Chicken Literacy from Adam R on Vimeo.

When the temperature drops thirty degrees in twelve hours with wind chills in the teens, it is cold outside.  No matter how much winter wear you don, the bitter breeze finds a way to give you the shivers.  As you walk from one point to the other, sometimes in place and other times as if a giant hand is pushing you, you wonder if you will ever be warm again.  In Cold Turkey (Little, Brown and Company, November 23, 2021) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call with illustrations by Chad Otis, this bird knows that frigid temperatures equals loads of clothes.  Will this bird survive wandering in his neighborhood?

Turkey woke up c-c-cold.
He wheezed, "It's ten degrees!

I need to b-b-bundle up
before I f-f-freeze!"

Turkey first met Sheep.  She was quivering from the effects of the storm.  Turkey gave her his hat.  Turkey was not quite as warm when he met Chick.  Her feathers and nest of hay were not helping her.  Perhaps Turkey's wing warmers would help her.

No longer standing, Horse could barely make a sound.  Cow could not even crouch to combat the wild wind.  It was a miracle Pig was not purple from the wild weather.  At each stop, Turkey relinquished an article of clothing.

Turkey was no longer bundled.  Turkey was shaking as the blizzard blasted his bare body.  He could hardly wait to get home.  

Unbeknownst to Turkey, his barnyard friends had an unexpected state in store for him.  Each one and Turkey, too, had new descriptive names.  Turkey went from warm-hearted on the inside and from cold to _____ on the outside.

Authors Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call have a knack through inventive wordplay for spinning narratives with a catchy cadence.  Their rhyming couplets for each animal followed by a two-word alliterative descriptor bring smiles to listeners.  These are an open invitation to participate in the story.  As the tale unfolds, readers see the results of a generous spirit and the warmth friendship brings.  Here is a passage.

Cow was qu-qu-quivering.
"I can't help but complain.

This wind is a cow-tastrophy!
It's udderly insane."


The crisp white background for the front and back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case with scattered snowflakes is certain to induce chills.  Even covered in clothing, Turkey is one cold bird as evidenced by the shiver marks and blowing leaves and weeds.  Notice how those weeds extend over the spine.  

To the left, on the back, Turkey and his friends are shown in a circular image.  Their cold faces all point to him in the center.  Each one of them is labeled with their alliterative names, except for Cold Turkey.

On the opening endpapers artist Chad Otis gives readers a bird's eye view of the barnyard blanketed in snow.  A dotted line indicates the path Turkey takes from friend to friend.  This view offers a hint at the conclusion.  Night has fallen on the scene on the closing endpapers.  There are still a few flakes of snow falling but it is otherwise calm.  The dotted line has been replaced with prints in the snow.  A glow on the far right reveals the toasty conclusion.

These images rendered

in pencil, scanned textures, and digital paint

convey a realistic sense of time and place.  You'll be reaching for your favorite coat, hat, and mittens before you leave with Turkey to go outside.  Evidence of the wind and snow has filtered into Turkey's home.  Brrrr . . .

As Turkey moves from animal to animal, the layering of snow on objects combined with gusts of wind, drifting flakes, and blowing leaves and twigs is highly convincing.  White is used superbly as an element contrasting with the colors of the animals, Turkey and his clothing.  Chad Otis has us initially standing back to watch the exchange between Turkey and the other five animals, but when Turkey gives away an article of clothing and the animal is given their two-word name, we are brought close to the location.  Readers will enjoy the added details and facial expression on the characters.

One of my many favorite images of all these two-page pictures is for the words


On the left side Horse's face and upper portion of his body is highlighted.  Horse is extremely cold, but now his nose is wrapped in Turkey's scarf.  Horse is holding it in place with his two foot hooves.  On the right side of the picture, Turkey is walking away, getting colder and colder.  He is wearing only two more pieces of clothing.  Head bent, he plods through the deepening snow.  To the left of him, a fence is coated in snow.  In the distance, on the right, we can see the outline of the farmhouse.

Readers will be tapping their toes and clapping their hands in time to the wondrous words penned by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call and in response to the enhancing illustrations by Chad Otis when they hear or read Cold Turkey.  This book would make a fantastic reader's theater.  You'll want to add a copy to both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Corey Rosen Schwartz, Kirsti Call, and Chad Otis and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Corey Rosen Schwartz has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Kirsti Call has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Chad Otis has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can download an activity sheet.

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