Can Hens Give Milk?

Joan Betty Stuchner, illus. by Joe Weissman. Orca, $19.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-55469-319-1
On this visit to Chelm, which in Jewish folklore is the hotbed for all things silly, readers meet Shlomo and Rivka, a kindly couple who have "five children, twelve scrawny hens, one rooster and not much money." Yearning for a little milk and cheese and unable to afford a cow, Shlomo engages in some magical thinking of the animal husbandry kind. Since cows eat grass, he reasons, "...if we feed grass to our hens, they will still lay eggs, but they will also give us milk." With help from six-year-old Tova, their brightest child ("bright" being a relative term in Chelm), the addlepated rabbi of Chelm, and plenty of skewed logic, everyone ends up a winner—including the beleaguered hens. It's easy for Chelm stories to feel by-the-numbers or condescending toward their characters, but Stuchner (Josephine's Dream) and Weissman (Mom, the School Flooded) never fall into that trap. They forgo dwelling on Chelm's backstory, letting the goofy events speak for themselves through brisk, almost reportorial storytelling and genial cartooning. It's the literary equivalent of a merry wink—which is just what this genre needed. Ages 4–8. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/28/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-1-4598-0427-2
Ebook - 33 pages - 978-1-55469-320-7
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-1-4598-0171-4
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