Thursday, April 08, 2010

Chicken Scratches: Grade A poultry poetry and rooster rhymes

Chicken Scratches: Grade A poultry poetry and rooster rhymes by George Shannon & Lynn Brunelle, illustrated by Scott Menchin, is clever, creative, funny and fresh as a new-laid egg, this book of chicken-related poems entertains from start to finish, accompanied by excellent, adorable illustrations worth clucking about.

The grass-green background on this roughly 8"x8" book is embossed/embedded with chicken footprints, and the "Grade A" label is embossed as well. (I have often observed, at least to myself, that Chronicle Books excels at design and/or packaging – their books have a nice feel in the hand, and their design shows a real attention to detail. Kudos to Amelia May Anderson, the book designer credited with this book, on a clever and well-executed package that helps to "sell" the poems and illustrations; the entire package forms a harmonious, hilarious whole.

A collection of sixteen humorous poems about chickens, all of which involve rhyme. Some are couplets, some are cross-rhymed, there's even a limerick or two in the collection. "Hula Zelda" is borderline risqué for a children's book collection, since Zelda is known for her power to drive the roosters crazy with her hula dancing (" . . . wearing a grass skirt.") "Time Traveler" (which discusses how chickens evolved from the dinosaurs) and "Yummy in My Tummy Bugs" (which talks about chickens scratching for bugs), while funny, include factual information about actual chickens. Poems such as "Champion", discussing a sumo-wrestling chicken with a small wrestling suit, is neither factual nor about an actual chicken, although it is extremely funny:


Chickie Teriyaki,
a sumo superstar,
tossed his weight around the ring
and bumped opponents far.

His shape was very ovular.
His wrestling suit was small.
So when he bowed to start a match,
fans nearly saw it all!
The artwork that accompanies the text is adorable, and supports and enhances the text extremely well.

I am particularly fond of the final poem, "Recess", which is based on a joke based on the age-old question, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" The answer is, of course, "To get to the other side." The joke is "Why did the chicken cross the playground?" (Answer: "To get to the other slide.")

If I manage to find my camera, I'll come back and post a photo of the final two-page spread, so you can get a better feel for the artwork.

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