a list of…five books with clucky, plucky heroines!

A couple of weeks ago pigs were the stars of my blog.  This weeks, it’s the chickens’ turn in the spotlight! 

Louise: The Adventures of a Chicken, story by Kate DiCamillo, illustrations by Harry Bliss 

Louise is definitely a chicken with wanderlust

She has such a yearning for adventure, that she leaves the security of her henhouse and heads to sea, where her ship is boarded by pirates, and then capsizes; then, to the circus, where she becomes a high-wire artist, narrowly escaping a ravenous lion; and then to an exotic North African market, where she is snatched and imprisoned with a bevy of other chickens until she discovers a way to extricate them all.  Phew!  That’s a lot of adventure! 

In the end, Louise returns to the warm, dry, safe coop, regaling her fellow chickens with all her feather-raising tales.  Their hearts beat fast as they listen!  Finally, they settle down to sleep “the deep and dreamless and peaceful sleep of true adventurers.” 

Louise is a delightful yarn spun by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo.  The illustrations are fantastic watercolors which brilliantly portray the dastardly pirate action, the perilously thin high-wire, far, far above the floor of the circus tent, the spicy, dusky bazaar with its palm reader and cloth vendors and colorful woven rugs, and the peaceful beauty of the French countryside.  Not to mention Louise — our stalwart, plucky heroine.  Great teamwork on a great read!

The Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner, story and pictures by Eileen Christelow 

Something sinister is afoot in town — diamond robbers are on the loose!  Glenda Feathers rushes to warn her good friends Harry and Lola at their Diamond Dog Diner, especially since Lola always wears diamonds while she cooks!  The three of them hatch a brilliant plan to hide the diamonds, but Glenda accidentally lets the secret slip and then the trouble really starts.  With Glenda languishing in the robbers’ hideout, what can the three friends do to catch the thieves and retrieve the diamonds?  

Well.  I won’t tell you.  Obviously.  But it involves eggs, furry-footed chickens, some policemen, and a bag of chocolates!  

I still remember listening to Peter Falk narrate this story on Reading Rainbow many, many years ago.  Hilarious!  With an exciting plot, a quick-witted chicken (blabbermouth though she may be!), and the colorful, action-packed pictures, this book has been an all-time favorite for our whole family.

Wings: A Tale of Two Chickens, story and pictures by James Marshall 

Harriet and Winnie are both chickens.  But, there the resemblance stops.  For Harriet loves to read and pursue interesting hobbies, while Winnie is a restless, easily bored gal without a lick of sense, who complains that, “nothing really wild ever happens around here.” 

Winnie gets plenty of “wild,” however, when she meets a silken-voiced, bushy-tailed stranger named Mr. Johnson who offers her a ride in his hot air balloon.  Fortunately for Winnie, her friend Harriet knows a few tricks of her own and before the chicken and dumplings can be cooked, Harriet pulls off an ingenuous, daring rescue. 

James Marshall imbues his characters with tremendous personality.  Harriet is a savvy, resourceful, decisive heroine, while Winnie is so ditzy and featherbrained we wonder why she hasn’t already landed in the soup!  Mr. Johnson is very sly, and it is such a pleasure and relief to see him left empty-handed.  Marshall’s trademark art, bursting with motion and color and silliness, is always a treat.  We have loved so many of his books.  This one is a winner, too.

Eggs Mark the Spot, written and illustrated by Mary Jane Auch 

This one is about a hen named Pauline, who helps solve an art theft!  A highly unusual plot, wouldn’t you agree? 

Pauline has the previously-unheard-of ability to create eggs with exquisite floral designs on the shells, simply by concentrating on the flower while she lays the egg.   Actually, she can concentrate on just about anything, and its image appears on her egg.  The local art museum’s director hears about Pauline and thinks she would be a fine attraction at her new exhibit’s grand opening, so Pauline’s owner, Mrs. Pennywort, agrees to bring Pauline to the gallery.  

Pauline patters around viewing paintings from Van Gogh to Picasso and laying some incredibly artistic eggs when, suddenly, a man dressed in black comes shimmying down a rope from the skylight and snatches a painting!  With some heavy duty squawking, Pauline manages to rouse the guard, but it is too late.   The thief has scooted back up the rope and through the skylight.  However, Pauline notices something that nobody else does, and with patience, intelligence and high powers of concentration, Pauline saves the day! 

This is a very clever plot, and the illustrations are at least as clever.  Pauline’s original artwork on her eggs, inspired by the famous paintings, is genius.  The whole book is energized by vibrant colors, exaggerated faces and boisterous fashions.  From the pun in the title until the close of the book, Eggs Mark the Spot is witty and fun.

 

Rosie’s Walk, words and pictures by Pat Hutchins 

With very few words and plenty of slapstick action, Rosie’s Walk is a great pick for very young listeners. 

The whole book consists of just one sentence.  Rosie the hen goes for a walk around the barnyard, passing a number of obstacles along the way, and returns to the chicken coop.  That’s it. 

Except… 

someone is following Rosie!  Yikes!  It’s a fox!  He is lurking under the chicken coop as Rosie leaves and she doesn’t see him as he follows after, leaping to pounce on her, not once, but several times!  Rosie is completely oblivious to the fox.   It is only the rake that saves her — boinging up to smack that fox in the snout; or the sack of flour, which Rosie inadvertently spills in a cascading snowstorm onto the same Mr. Fox.  Or a pond, or haystack, a cart or a beehive.  All of these chance to save Rosie, though she has no idea of what is transpiring just behind her.  

The action is in the pictures in this book, which are simple and bright and engaging, meaning that the “listeners” are also creating the story in their heads as they look at all that is happening with each turn of the page.  Another old favorite around our house.