cover image ELINOR AND VIOLET: The Story of Two Naughty Chickens

ELINOR AND VIOLET: The Story of Two Naughty Chickens

Patti Beling Murphy, ELINOR AND VIOLET: The Story of Two Naughty Chickens

Elinor barely qualifies as a naughty chicken. "She wrote on the walls—but in tiny, tiny letters.... Sometimes, she sang bad words softly under her breath in the bathroom." In the bright gouaches, Elinor frolics in flowered jumpers against gaily patterned wallpaper, and her faults seem trivial. This changes when another mischievous cluck, Violet, comes to the neighborhood for a weeklong visit. " 'You don't have to go when your mother calls you,' said Violet. 'Just don't answer....' Elinor spent more and more time in the time-out corner." The trouble peaks when the girls turn an adult's purse into "buried treasure" and must own up to their crime. In her debut as an author-illustrator, Murphy (Day Care Days) resolves the issue with generous forgiveness and maintains the girls' friendship. The potential for misbehavior remains; when the humbled Violet departs (with a promise to return next summer), Elinor affectionately clasps her friend's address and sleeps under a sign reading "Violet rules!" If the text shows a shrewd understanding of peer pressure, the pictures are not so sensitive. Violet, the disagreeable outsider, is an eggshell-brown chicken, in contrast to snowy-white Elinor and her matching family. Murphy slightly rectifies the color-coding with the appearance of Elinor's chestnut-hued aunt, yet racial implications could have been avoided altogether. More effective is the presentation of how minor misdeeds have harmful, or at least embarrassing, consequences. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)