Chicken Story Time
A new picture book from Dial Books for Young Readers (PenguinRandom), with hilarious illustrations by Mark Fearing.
Here’s a sneak preview:
And the reviews are coming in:
One chicken at storytime might be fun, but more than one….”Story time at the library. // One librarian. One story. Children. / And a chicken. // The children like the chicken. The chicken likes the children. / ‘Let’s begin,’ says the librarian. Everyone loves story time.” The next week, though there is still just one librarian (a white woman with huge, round glasses) and one story, there are both more children and more chickens (both diverse in color and race/breed). The crowd is a bit unruly, but the librarian gets them seated, and everyone has a wonderful time. The next week, however, there are many children and flocks of chickens. The librarian can’t be heard over the clucking din and the laughter. Then she has a brilliant idea: have each child read a different story to several chickens…and everyone loves storytime again (including the librarian, who gets to put her feet up and have tea). Asher’s not-quite-cumulative tale of a poultry invasion of the public library told in simple declarative sentences will have little listeners wishing for more farm fowl at their libraries. Fearing’s part-traditional, part-digital illustrations are a mix of full- and double-page spreads and comics-style panels (some without words) that assist in the telling of the tale. Chicken shenanigans (they pop out of the book drop, use computers, and balance books on their heads) as well as their expressions add to the mayhem and enjoyment. This book may make free-range storytimes de rigueur. (Picture book. 3-7)
Children will know that they are in for some poultry-themed hijinks from the first page of this off-kilter story, as a chicken spots a poster for “story time at the library.” As kids stream into the library, the chicken gives readers a knowing glance—she’s ready to make her move. She’s friendly (“The children like the chicken. The chicken likes the children”), well-behaved, and attentive, so the librarian is chill about it (after all, “everyone loves story time”). But as chickens and kids show up in ever-larger numbers (one chicken even slips in through the book return slot), crowd control becomes difficult and proper library behavior goes out the window. What’s a librarian to do? Asher’s (Here Comes Gosling!) poker-faced, repeating text (“One library. One story. Many children. Many chickens”) offers the perfect setup for Fearing’s wonderfully silly and well-choreographed cartooning, which proves that children and chickens are equally skilled at creating chaos. And the resolution points to another advantage of becoming a reader: you can lead a cross-species story time yourself. Ages 3–5.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Everyone looks forward to the storytime program at the public library. One week, a chicken comes in through the window and joins the entourage of children as they gather around the librarian to hear a story, and a good time is had by all. The next week, a larger crowd of children attend, along with a whole flock of chickens. The session is a bit hectic but is nonetheless a big hit. The following week, there are so many children, and so many chickens, that the beleaguered librarian can’t be heard over the din, even with a bullhorn. How can they possibly conduct a storytime? Suddenly, a solution occurs to her—she hands out “shelves and shelves of stories” to the children, and they spread out all over the building, each conducting mini-storytimes, reading to the chickens. The vibrant cartoon art captures the suburban library setting with a mix of full-bleed spreads, sequential panels, and increasingly busy (and noisy) scenes. The simple, large-font, cumulative text reinforces several recurring elements (children, chickens, stories) and features the refrain, “Everyone loves storytime.” With this engaging, bibliocentric answer to the proverbial question of why the chicken crossed the road, librarians and teachers can introduce the idea of library programming in a lively and humorous way. VERDICT Children will flock to hear this raucous read-aloud.—Luann Toth, School Library Journal
It’s a summer storytime at the library: “One librarian. One story. Children. And a chicken.” The chicken climbs in through the window, sits with the kids, and listens quietly, so all is well. The following week, more children and more chickens join the fun. But the next week, even more children and many more chickens show up. Between the clucking, the fooling around, and the book-cart racing, it’s pandemonium until the librarian deputizes the kids, settling each one down with a book to read and a little cluster of chickens to listen to the story. Wasting no words on description and embellishment, Asher tells this amusing tale with straightforward phrases in a deadpan tone, leaving plenty of room for visual humor in the artwork. Fearing’s expressive, cartoon-style illustrations begin with orderly calm, rise to a chaotic crescendo, and quiet down again at the end. Along the way, there are plenty of amusing details for observant viewers to enjoy. A pleasure for reading aloud, with or without chickens. — Carolyn Phelan