John Escott, Author, Annie West, Illustrator , illus. by Annie West. McGraw-Hill/Gingham Dog $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-57768-492-3

West (The Butterfly Who Wouldn't ) gives a famously hard-working hen a pert modern look in her lively cartoonlike illustrations. The text serviceably relates the heroine's labors, from the planting of wheat to the baking of the bread made from that wheat, as well as the firm refusals of a trio of the hen's farmyard neighbors to help with the work. The visuals jazz up the storytelling: the heroine is a red, outsize semicircle on legs, with tiny beak and tailfeathers; she towers over her five similarly shaped yellow chicks, but—emphasizing her perseverance—she is dwarfed by the wheat she harvests. Nothing daunts her: followed by her chicks, she lugs the wheat up a winding, hilly path to the mill. Receiving a bag of flour (again, bigger than she is), she clutches the top of it with one wing, facing her farmyard neighbors (and the audience) straight on, in a classic High Noon posture, to ask who will help her lug it to the baker's. Throughout, the lazy trio (pig, sheepdog and goose) loll about indolently, their faces comically blank. West adds plenty of definition to her compositions, cross-hatching the hen's underside, delineating each curve in each sheaf of wheat, sketching out the blades of grass in the fields and the leaves on the trees. A spry outing. Ages 2-6. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!