I'm not sure why chickens frequently make their way into picture books. Maybe their status as farm animals makes them accessible to the youngest book lovers. I'm not sure why chickens are inherently funny. Maybe it all flows from the chicken crossing the road joke. Regardless, children's chicken books are often hysterical. Here are two that had my boys laughing out loud this month.
by author/illustrator Keith Graves
Opening: "On a teeny little farm, in an itty-bitty coop, a very small hen laid a big, humongous egg."
Talk about a juxtaposition! The illustrations of a huge chick combine with bird-brained dialogue to create a very silly situation. The smallest chick's contributions are especially funny. ("She was not the sharpest beak in the flock.") As the title suggests, the plot also draws on the story of "Chicken Little", stirring up a flurry of crises that the humongous chick diverts while the chickens all try to identify him: "Apparently, he is an umbrella!" Will the chick's heroic actions at the end finally gain him some acceptance?
by author/illustrator David Ezra Stein
Told mostly in dialogue, parents will recognize the theme of this silly bedtime story. One of my boys is an "interrupting chicken", so this hit home for me and was definitely laugh-out-loud funny. Not only does Chicken interrupt the bedtime stories, but her interruptions also end the stories by nipping the problem in the bud. When Chicken heard the part where Little Red Riding Hood met a wolf in the woods, she interrupts, "Out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, 'Don't talk to strangers!' So Little Red Riding Hood didn't. The end!" As a writer, I find that Chicken highlights the need for a story arc with tension in order to create a satisfying experience for the reader. David Ezra Stein certainly does this with his clever book.