The Chicken Thief: A Picture Book Review

Fox sees Hen. Fox absconds with startled Hen. Outraged animals give chase to rescue Hen. Fox evades while holding onto Hen in The Chicken Thief (2010) by Beatrice Rodriguez.

If you think you know how this wordless story ends, think again.

Rodriguez’s large, detailed illustrations offer a different take on this seemingly familiar story showing, instead of a hungry fox, one who might have found a worthy companion.

The illustrations are a nice size and filled with humor and detail as the fox (and the hen) are chased over land and sea and even through a rather narrow tunnel along their journey. The colors are bright and the images will be easy to “read” for a variety of readers.

Rodriguez has reinvented a story with a fun, surprise ending here. The Chicken Thief is a promising debut to Enchanted Lion’s new Stories Without Words series.

*This book was received for review from the publisher, Enchanted Lion Books.*

The Sweetheart of Prosper County: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. AlexanderAustin Gray doesn’t have a lot of things at the beginning of The Sweetheart of Prosper County (2009) by Jill S. Alexander (find it on Bookshop). She doesn’t have a blue-ribbon-winning sow. She doesn’t have a deer hunting license, or a signature wave. And she definitely doesn’t have a mound of cleavage.

What Austin does have is a plan.

Austin is almost as tired of waiting for someone else to pull her into the annual Christmas parade as she is of being the butt of Dean Ottmer’s jokes and Austin has a surefire way to fix both her problems: become a hood ornament/Sweetheart in the No-Jesus Christmas Parade.

The plan is pretty simple: join Future Farmers of America, raise a blue-ribbon-winning animal, learn to hunt or fish, and say hello to her new role as a member of the confident, parade royalty that are able to shrug off Dean Ottmer’s bullying and taunts. Easy as pie with a little help from her best friend and her momma.

Things soon get complicated (and exciting) when Austin acquires a chicken named Charles Dickens and befriends the FFA crowd. Before she knows it, what had started as a mission for Austin becomes a lifestyle as her dream of becoming the sweetheart of Prosper County forces Austin and her momma to rethink how they deal with little things like annoying neighbors and bigger things like the death of Austin’s father years before.

As a New York City native, reading about Austin’s world was almost like reading about another country. In the beginning I wasn’t sure what to expect. But this book was also disarming in the best possible way. Austin is an open-minded and mellow (except when it comes to Dean Ottmer) character and the book absorbs those qualities.

The book mentions religion a lot (one of the awesome secondary characters is an Elvis impersonator with an Evangelical side) but not in a self-important or righteous way–it’s just a part of who these people are. And, really, that’s how most things should be treated in a book be it cultural, religious or otherwise.

Alexander is a Texas native and she adds a lot of that flavor to The Sweetheart of Prosper County. Readers will be able to hear the twang and feel that Texan charm in Austin’s narration and the story itself. The plot is well-paced and delightfully fun while still having some weight to it.

Possible Pairings: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, Miss Smithers by Susan Juby, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency: A brief review

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (1977) by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Tony Auth (find it on Bookshop)

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel PinkwaterI wasn’t sure about the book when it was foisted upon me by one of the children’s librarians. Chickens . . . they don’t seem that interesting. This is not the case for 266 pound chickens like Henrietta.

Arthur brings Henrietta home on Thanksgiving having failed to procure a turkey (or duck, or normal sized chicken) for his family’s holiday dinner. But, upon meeting Henrietta, the family decides she might be more pet than poultry. Chaos ensues, however, when Henrietta gets loose.

It’s a cute story and a quick read. The characters created by Daniel Pinkwater (and illustrated by his wife Jill) are memorable and lots of fun. I also really liked the message of the story, which overtly is that “Chickens need love too” but is also just a call for tolerance–something that can never be stated enough. Pinkwater originally wrote this book in the 1970s and I’m pretty confident it will continue to be a favorite for years to come.