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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Chicken Talk, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Harper, 2019. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"In the kitchen, Otis smiled as he drank his coffee. And soon it happened. Outside there was a loud howl from Tripp. Otis opened the kitchen door and looked out. Tripp clutched his pillow, his tent collapsed on one side. He pointed to a message in the dirt.

You snore and there is a 
snake in your tent." 

The 12 chickens who live on the farm with Otis and his family are well-loved. Each has a name, as does the rooster. Life on the farm is pretty quiet and the days pass with little drama. Until one day, when Otis and his wife have gone to town for supplies, the children notice something very unusual.

Willie notices it first, and calls his sister over to see a written-in-the-dirt message that says:

'No more arugula." 

Since the parents are not at home and the children know it was not their doing, there is a mystery afoot. Upon their return, and after a quick visit with the chicken named Trixie, Otis feels certain that Trixie did the writing. They are afraid to share that sentiment in fear their friends will think them 'nutty'. The messages continue, each written by a different member of the flock. Finally their mailman Tripp is first to see a new message one morning while making his rounds. No one believes it when he spreads the news to the townfolk. They are in disbelief, as is he.

It takes a big surprise to convince Tripp about the writing. He is quick to spread the news. Visitors all flock to the farm to buy eggs and to see the 'chicken talk'. Finally, the seven white chickens, all named Joyce, make their true feelings known, and bring about change.

Having a voice is an important message for the book's readers. Soft, warm watercolor artwork is a match for the gentle tone of the story and the peaceful farm setting. There is a great deal of affection displayed here, and a sense of peace when the reading is done.

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