CHICKEN TALK. Written by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Katherine Tegen Books. $17.99.
If you like CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE, you’ll get a kick out of this new picture book by Patricia MacLachlan, author of SARAH PLAIN AND TALL. Farmer Otis, his wife Abby, and their children, Willie and Belle, love their flock of chickens. Each has a name, except the white ones, who are all called Joyce because no one can tell them apart. The chickens watch the children read, are fed special arugula salads, and even enjoy the view from the front porch. One day, the family discovers a message scratched in the dirt, “No more arugula!” Could it be that their chickens can actually read and write? Yes! Soon, they are making their ideas known. They want more stories about chickens, a fan, and an umbrella. They want the mailman to slow down and the family to come and see the new chicks. The Joyces say they don’t want to all be called Joyce and give themselves new names. Only Grace, the quietest hen, has said nothing. Finally, she scratches her special message, “We love you.”
Krosoczka’s cartoon style is perfect for the story. He utilizes heavy line and loose watercolor in realistic colors. Though the human characters are simply drawn, each is unique and we see diversity in the townspeople who come to buy eggs and hear the chicken talk of the day. The personalities of the hens and the rooster, Pedro, shine through their expressive eyes. With each page turn, readers can see how alert and watchful they are. The warmth of the illustrations and message of love should appeal to the young intended audience.