cover image Henrietta and the Golden Eggs

Henrietta and the Golden Eggs

Hanna Johansen, Daniel Hayes. David R. Godine Publisher, $12.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-1-56792-210-3

In this eloquent once-upon-a-time, Johansen and Bhend introduce a nonconformist chicken and make a case for the humane treatment of egg-layers. Henrietta is among ""three thousand three hundred/ and thirty-three chickens/ who lived in a great, big chicken house..../ almost all of them were losing feathers/ because they pecked at one another/ whenever they stepped/ on each other's feet."" Henrietta, an ambitious pullet too young to produce eggs, dreams of a comfortable place where she might fly or lay a golden egg someday. Though her peers scoff (""Don't even bother trying,"" they cluck), Henrietta ""pecked and scratched/ until she had scratched open a hole"" in the wall. Three times, she gets outside and leads the others to brief freedom: ""There was fresh air everywhere/ and it didn't smell of chicken droppings/ or fortified chicken feed anywhere."" Twice, humans recapture the escapees, but on the third try, the workers appeal to their manager: ""If we build a great, big chicken yard/ out here in the open.../ it'll all work out."" Johansen emphasizes that Henrietta is resourceful and brave ""because she [is] so little,"" and the hopeful resolution resonates with Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Bhend combines personality-filled portraits of Henrietta with naturalistic illustrations of the grassy outdoors enjoyed by frogs, wrens and ducks. Her stippled and crosshatched ink-line drawings, along with the book's clean design, recall another classic tale of an underdog, The Story of Ferdinand. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)