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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Prairie Chicken Little, written by Jackie Mims Hopkins and illustrated by Henry Cole. Peachtree, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2015. $10.95 ages 5 and up

"Soon they met Beau
Grabbit the jack rabbit,
who was nibbling on
some sweet grass.

"Where are you two
going in such a hurry?"
he asked."

Kids will hoot when they hear this prairie version of an old fairy tale. Mary McBlicken is just as scatterbrained as the original Chicken Little. She hears what she is sure is a stampede, and sets off toward the ranch to tell Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan all about her concerns.

Her panic is as rampant as the stampede she imagines headed toward her. She runs helter-skelter across the prairie. Each friend she meets is frightened by her gloom and doom report, joining her in her quest to get the information to the rancher as quickly as is possible. Children who have heard other versions of the story will recognize the absurdity of the rush, enjoy the animals who join her on her trek, and know very well that the wily coyote has dinner on his mind, not assistance.

Listeners will meet Jeffrey Snog the prairie dog, Beau Grabbit the jack rabbit, June Spark the meadowlark; each is willing to join Mary. Slim Brody the sly coyote stops them in their tracks with the promise of a shortcut. The journey they take leads straight to his den, where they become suspicious and erupt with plenty of noise. It is enough to bring Cowboy Stan running, send Slim Brody off at a run and an explanation for the sound Mary thought she heard.

Henry Cole uses watercolors, ink and colored pencils to give us a merry band of expressively hilarious characters, sure to attract notice and sympathy for their plight. The repetitive text will please those wanting to read a book on their own. It also makes it a terrific choice for story time with little ones.                                                                    

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