cover image When Chickens Grow Teeth

When Chickens Grow Teeth

Wendy Anderson Halperin. Scholastic, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-531-09526-3

A patchwork of gentle watercolor images brings a French village to life in this gleeful retelling of a story by Guy de Maupassant. Each page features a series of variably sized panels, as many as a dozen. Like stills from a movie, they tell the story frame by frame, complementing the written text. After a fall, a bon vivant named Antoine (Toine to his friends) takes to his bed, where his morale is boosted considerably by an endless string of sympathetic visitors. The sight of her husband in such high spirits infuriates his hot-tempered and overworked wife, Colette, and she concocts a plan to keep him busy: he will keep 10 eggs warmly buried beneath pillows in his bed and hatch them. The unlikely episode unfolds mirthfully as Toine undertakes his new role with all the anxiety of an expectant father. A few turns of phrase are a little awkward (""Toine's good nature in bed is too much for [his wife]"") but for the most part the translation skips smoothly forward. The illustrations, with their multiple scenarios and keen detail, ensure that there is always something new to observe in repeat readings. A muted, earth-tone palette imbues warmth, befitting a folktale. In a nice touch, Halperin (Hunting the White Cow) includes Maupassant himself as a character at Toine's bedside, his nose always in a newspaper, hunting for the next good story. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)