cover image One Little Chicken

One Little Chicken

Elka Weber, illus. by Elisa Kleven. Random/Tricycle, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58246-374-2

When a chicken wanders into an impoverished Jewish household, little Leora, like children from time immemorial, begs her mother to keep it. Leora isn't just looking for a pet; she yearns for fresh eggs to break up the monotony of the family's lentil soup diet. But her mother is a stickler for the rules: "Finders aren't keepers. This chicken isn't our chicken." Fair enough%E2%80%94but what is the family to do with the parade of livestock that results from their decision?And what is owed the chicken's real owner when he finally appears? Weber (The Yankee at the Seder) and Kleven (Welcome Home, Mouse) give readers food for thought without stepping over the line into didacticism, but the ending, which shows Leora's family joyfully re-embracing deprivation, might test modern readers' credulity. An endnote explains this story's origins in the Talmud and notes the rule's source, Deuteronomy 22:1%E2%80%933. The serviceable prose, Leora's scold of a mother%E2%80%94a clich%C3%A9 that should be put out to pasture%E2%80%94and the innocuously pretty images add up to a less than persuasive portrait of extreme piety. Ages 4%E2%80%936. (Aug.)