Nights of the Pufflings ) picture book—perhaps the first ever devoted to interactions between chickens and middle-aged women "/>

The Problem with Chickens

Bruce McMillan, Author, Gunnella, Illustrator , illus. by Gunnella. Houghton/Lorraine $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-618-58581-6

The subject of McMillan's (Nights of the Pufflings ) picture book—perhaps the first ever devoted to interactions between chickens and middle-aged women in an Icelandic village—might seem an uninteresting prospect on the face of it. But the juxtaposition of McMillan's minimal deadpan text (just one or two lines per page) and Icelandic artist Gunnella's comically literal paintings makes for some unlikely hilarity. The author relates the trials of a group of women as they try to secure a reliable supply of eggs. Native birds lay their eggs on inaccessible cliffs, so the female villagers buy chickens instead—but that's only the beginning of their problems. "The chickens forgot they were chickens. They started acting like ladies. When the ladies went to pick blueberries, the chickens went, too.... When the ladies sang to the sheep, the chickens sang, too." Gunnella supplies paintings of buxom, Botero-like women in black dresses, striped aprons and headscarves, shadowed by chickens who mimic them as they drink tea and try dance steps. When the chickens act more human than fowl, the ladies hatch a plan to make the chickens start laying eggs again, involving intensive pullet re-education and a pulley assembly, and both the ladies and the birds grow stronger and more indomitable in the process. Readers young and old will cheer their ingenuity—that is, when they aren't giggling. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/29/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
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