cover image The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure

Doreen Cronin, illus. by Kevin Cornell. S&S/Atheneum, $12.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-4424-9676-7

This loopy mystery kicks off the Chicken Squad series, a spinoff of Cronin and Cornell's J.J. Tully Mysteries that is skewed to even younger readers. Retired search-and-rescue dog turned detective J.J. takes a minor role in this outing, leaving the spotlight to Moosh's four chicks. Though it's J.J.'s job to bail out the trouble-prone chickens, he enlists readers to take over while he naps: "Wake me if they get into any trouble. Well, big trouble. I'm sure you can handle a little trouble on your own." Trouble arrives in the guise of Tail, a terrified squirrel who storms the chicken coop insisting that "something big and scary" is after him. Led by Sugar, who records clues in her notebook, and Dirt, who uses her sketchpad to decipher the shape of the interloper, the chick siblings (camouflaged as clods of grass) and Tail set out to confront what they assume is a UFO. As Cronin and Cornell layer on the silliness, full-tilt slapstick springs from the chicks' banter and Tail's melodramatic ranting. Ages 7%E2%80%9310. Author's agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Apr.)