cover image My Dog’s a Chicken

My Dog’s a Chicken

Susan McElroy Montanari, illus. by Anne Wilsdorf. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-385-38490-2

Lula Mae wants a dog, but “these are hard times,” and Mama says, “You’ve got to make do.” So Lula Mae picks out the most promising hen in her farmyard—the one that “strutted around like it owned the place”—and names it Pookie. “Now that’s my kind of dog!” she says. Wilsdorf’s (Sophie’s Squash) Pookie is a terrific creation: goggle-eyed and self-possessed in that inimitably chicken way, and Montanari loads up this very funny debut with countrified lilts and refrains (Mama’s response to everything is “Call it anything you like, but it’s not coming in my house”). But the real comedy emerges from the epistemological ambiguity at the story’s core: Does Pookie know she has been singled out for canine greatness? Montanari and Wilsdorf hedge their bets. Much of the time, it seems like the chicken’s natural behavior just happens to coincide with what her eagerly imaginative owner thinks a dog should do. “She’s a show dog, a shepherd dog, a guard dog, and search-and rescue dog, too!” Lula Mae declares. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Erzsi Deàk, Hen & Ink Literary Studio. Illustrator’s agency: Studio Goodwin Sturges. (Feb.) [/em]