cover image Busy-Busy Little Chick

Busy-Busy Little Chick

Janice N. Harrington, illus. by Brian Pinkney. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-34746-8

In a Central African tale that turns the story of the Little Red Hen upside down, an affectionate chicken mother fails to build her children a better house, and one of her chicks must do it instead. “Peo-peo,” the chicks cry. “We’re chilly-cold.” Mama Nsoso promises to build them a new house, an ilombe, but is waylaid by “crunchy-munchy, sweety-meaty, big fat worms” and a succession of other treats. Meanwhile, Little Chick gathers grass and twigs “tee-tee-tee” (the glossary explains that this term describes “action that goes on and on”), making a house that delights the chicks and makes Mama Nsoso proud. Pinkney (Sit-In) concentrates on the chunky chickens rather than the African landscape. Using brushes loaded with color, he paints them broadly, drawing Mama Nsoso and her chicks with fat, black ink lines and swashing them with intense reds, oranges, and yellows. Harrington’s (Roberto Walks Home) storytelling background and careful investigation of African sources can be seen in the multitude of sound words and Lonkundo vocabulary she includes. Watching Little Chick succeed where his parent has stumbled will thrill young readers. Ages 3–6. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Feb.)