cover image The Broody Hen

The Broody Hen

Olivier Dunrea. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30597-6

``There once was a hen / a broody hen, a moody hen. . . .'' With this teasing opening, youngsters are invited to join a determined hen seeking a place to lay her eggs. The softly rendered watercolor illustrations (in a captivating, Wyeth-like palette of grays and beiges) follow a pastoral trail through scenes of windmills, pig-troughs and rooftops--but a few of the hen's disastrous choices. With the help of a farmer, a pen turns out to be the perfect place and--although it is unclear why the eggs are speckled--the hen does brood, and is soon followed around by her new family. The sing-songy text is neatly complemented by the interspersed illustrations of farm life that alternate between detailed landscapes and small caption drawings effectively laid against white space. The farm buildings themselves, in a country French architectural style, are particularly striking. The text possesses an agreeably old-fashioned, poetic flair--its soothing repetitions will linger long after the story is told. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)