cover image The Chicken of the Family

The Chicken of the Family

Mary Amato, . . Putnam, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-24196-3

Henrietta’s older sisters are such expert teasers that they’re able to convince her that she is really a chicken, obtained at birth from the local egg farm. “You grow feathers every night,” says the oldest sister, “and we have to pluck them out before you wake up.... It’s why we get more allowance than you do.” But being a chicken may not be a terrible fate, as Henrietta discovers when she runs away to the farm in search of “her real family.” The setting is idyllic, the farmer is nice (“Always got room for another free-ranger,” he tells her), and she’s readily accepted by her feathered relatives (they are marvelously imagined with googly eyes, dazed smiles and fork-like legs). Even when the older sisters ’fess up after being dispatched to the farm by their angry parents, Henrietta isn’t sure she wants to believe them. “You would never call me a dumbhead, would you?” she coos to her new “little sister,” a doting brown hen. Accused of exacting revenge by playing the fool, she replies, “I’m just a chicken. What do I know about trouble?” Amato’s (Please Write in This Book ) Seinfeldian storytelling is set off brilliantly by Durand’s (Beetle Boy ) off-kilter, kid-like cartooning. Packed with funny details and small plots (the farmer’s fat cat is apparently besotted with a chick), the art, like the story, delivers grade-AA comedy. Ages 4-up. (Feb.)