cover image Mr. Watson’s Chickens

Mr. Watson’s Chickens

Jarrett Dapier, illus. by Andrea Tsurumi. Chronicle, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4521-7714-4

Animals creating mayhem deliver rousing readalouds, and Dapier (Jazz for Lunch!) and Tsurumi (I’m on It!) here drive this story element to its riotous extreme. Mr. Watson and Mr. Nelson share a lime green “big, honking house with a teeny tiny yard in a big, honking city.” Mr. Watson, who reads as white, keeps animals, and East Asian–appearing Mr. Nelson does the cooking. But when Mr. Watson’s trio of chickens somehow rockets to 456, the flock takes over the household. Tsurumi conveys the chaos with several densely populated spreads featuring hundreds of chickens rehearsing dance routines, playing dress-up, and swinging from the chandeliers; meticulous draftsmanship makes the wonderfully frenetic activity both clear and absorbing. When red hen Aunt Agnes’s incessantly repeated song (“Shooby-doo,/ wonky-pow,/ bawka-bawka/ in da chow-chow”) starts to get under Mr. Nelson’s skin, Mr. Watson is oblivious. Behind the lively comedy, there’s a romantic relationship in trouble, until a tender embrace reveals that “Mr. Watson loved his chickens, but he loved Mr. Nelson more.” Subtle background portraits of Tove Jansson as well as Frog and Toad gently hint at the history of queer creators in children’s literature, while the carousing chickens draw most of the attention—and all of the laughs. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. Illustrator’s agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Oct.)