cover image This Is the Chick

This Is the Chick

Wendy Hartmann, illus. by Joan Rankin. Crocodile, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56656-039-9

In “House That Jack Built”–style verse, the duo behind The African Orchestra describes what happens when scary animals get scared themselves. Rankin’s paintings of African wildlife give the pages richness and depth. Her animals—brushed in translucent colors, with finely traced hair and feathers—are simultaneously comic and handsome. A chick cheeps; its parent, whose majestic black plumage is set off by a teal head, glares. The chick’s cry terrifies all of the animals that hear it: “This is the kudu that lifted his horns.../ and P-R-I-C-K-E-D the monkey like Acacia thorns.” The monkey screams, the jackal runs, and pretty soon a savannah’s worth of creatures are stampeding into the house of the young ranger. Finally, an owl talks sense into the crowd. The story’s pace never flags, and the vision of powerful animals—even the lion—having to be calmed by an owl will make children smile. One oddity: the story takes place at night (explaining the animals’ confusion and terror), but the white backdrops of the spreads create a sense of daylight and sunshine. Ages 3–8. (Nov.)