cover image The Chickens Build a Wall

The Chickens Build a Wall

Jean-François Dumont. Eerdmans, $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5422-3

Dumont (A Blue So Blue) crafts a clever barnyard commentary on protectionism, xenophobia, and overreaction. The appearance of a hedgehog, an animal never before seen on the medievalesque farm where the story takes place, brings life to a halt and starts the rumor mill churning, especially after the animal “curl[s] up into a tight ball, to the astonishment of everyone.” The hedgehog soon disappears, as mysteriously as it arrived, but the chickens remain ill at ease. “I bet he didn’t leave empty-handed,” says one. “We should count our chicks!” shouts another. The rooster uses the situation “to take control of a barnyard of full of hens who hadn’t been paying much attention to him,” persuading the hens to work through the winter to build a giant wall to keep out “prickly invaders.” Adult readers won’t have to look hard to spot parallels to contemporary discourse on immigration and other hot-button topics, and the target audience will easily see the chickens’ folly thanks to a drily funny ending and the comedy that runs throughout Dumont’s prose and sly characterizations. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)