Tony Johnston, , illus. by Eleanor Taylor. . S&S, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85641-9

Taylor's (No Trouble at All ) pencil and watercolor illustrations brim with humor, action and kid-pleasing details, but Johnston's (The Quilt Story ) unremitting country and western rhymes sometimes overspice the slim plot. The title fowl is absolutely frantic: "She is one right crazy chicken./ On the pots and pans she's wreakin'/ pure-dee havoc, pick-pick-pickin' / like a set of false teeth clickin'." The mild-mannered dog narrator in his green granny apron does everything he can to help the distressed feathered damsel, but it's not until the end that the readers find out why she is so desperate. Almost every line in the story rhymes with chicken, but the effect of the word endings often results in jokes more Hee-Haw than humorous—and necessitates some convoluted lines. The dog narrator says, "Then across the room I'm rushin'./ .../ While my sweeper is a swishin',/ dawns the plan for which/ I'm wishin'." Although sometimes tiresome, Johnston's rhymes can also be droll: "Peep! Peep! Peep! " the lovable dog says when he hears baby chicks hatching, "How my heart quickens—." But it's Taylor's rambunctious illustrations that fully develop the relationship between the characters. The dog patiently listens to the chicken's heart with a stethoscope, generously tries to feed her his dog biscuits, and finally chops up his broom so she can build straw nests everywhere—in pots, on shelves and even in the dustpan. A bushel and a peckin' of fun. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)