cover image The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County

Janice N. Harrington, , illus. by Shelley Jackson. . FSG/Kroupa, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31251-0

Harrington's (Going North ) chipper narrator loves chasing the chickens on her farm, even though Big Mama warns her, "If you make those girls crazy, they won't lay eggs." In lyrical, creatively visual language, the pigtailed girl describes Miss Hen, her favorite prey: "Her feathers are shiny as a rained-on roof. She has high yellow stockings and long-fingered feet, and when she talks— 'Pruck! Pruck! Pruck!'—it sounds like pennies falling on a dinner plate." But this hen is too speedy for the child to catch. When Miss Hen disappears, the youngster checks possible hiding places and finally finds her in tall grass, sitting on a nest of eggs with three newly hatched chicks by her side. Protecting her brood, the still hen is hers for the snatching, but the wise girl tells her not to worry: "I know you're a mama now. You're doing what you need to do. I won't trouble your babies." Now, instead of chasing the chickens, the child diligently feeds Miss Hen and her 12 chicks, vowing that, when those babies grow up, she will teach them "to run so fast that no one will ever catch them—not even a chicken chaser like me!" Jackson's (The Old Woman and the Wave ) sunny, mixed-media collage art inventively combines variegated patterns, textures and photos (the especially dashing Miss Hen is a brightly hued patchwork bird) and conveys the young heroine's boundless energy. Lively chicken chat—much of it presented in collage—makes this a spirited read-aloud. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)