Perfect Picture Book Fridays Looks at The Chicken-Chasing Queen by Janice N. Harrington.
Maybe I’m drawn to books that take me into the heart of farm country because I grew up next door to relatives that had a small farm. (By small, I mean for their own needs and ours.) My aunt and uncle planted one row of sky-tickling corn, a row of plump peas ready to pop from their sun-warmed pods, a row of pungent-tasting peanuts that tasted less than awful until they were roasted, a raspberry patch with plenty of pokey thorns to protect the juicy berries, and a squawking, clucking coop of hens that lay enough eggs to retire on.
Why I like this book – When I found the picture book, The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington, I knew I held a book I had to add to my shelf. And no, my reason for purchasing this uplifting book wasn’t entirely based on my love of farmland and chickens. Ms. Harrington has a gift for word choices that surprised and delighted me.
If a writer hopes to captivate the reader, it’s critical he or she chooses the perfect word or words to describe something. It’s not enough to say your character’s teeth are white as snow. Similes work best when they relate to the setting the story takes place in. The following, partial sentence from today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection illustrates this well.
Soon as I wake up, wash away the dreaming, and brush my teeth whiter than a biscuit…
Whiter than a biscuit. I can’t think of a better comparison. And the book continues to surprise with countless, perfect similes, metaphors, and thoughtful verbs throughout.
In addition to a fast-paced, fun story, the illustrations by Shelley Jackson further enhance the reading enjoyment. Ms. Jackson’s collages combining paintings with cut and torn paper, fabric and lace lend a country charm to this kid-friendly book.
The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
Written by – Janice N. Harrington
Published by- Melanie Kroupa Books – Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007
*Suitable for – 4-8
*Topics/Theme – Sometimes, an unexpected outcome can be just as good as getting what you want.
*Opening – I’m the Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County. Big Mama says, “Don’t you chase those chickens. If you make those girls crazy, they won’t lay eggs. You like eggs, don’t you?’
Big Mama says, “Don’t you chase those chickens. If you make those girls crazy, they won’t lay eggs. You like eggs, don’t you?’
But I don’t care. Soon as I wake up, wash away the dreaming, and brush my teeth whiter than a biscuit, I always do three things: eat breakfast, tell stories to Big Mama, and–when Big Mama isn’t looking–
Synopsis from Amazon – Meet one smart chicken chaser. She can catch any chicken on her grandmother’s farm except one – the elusive Miss Hen. In a hilarious battle of wits, the spirited narrator regales readers with her campaign to catch Miss Hen, but this chicken is “fast as a mosquito buzzing and quick as a fleabite.” Our chicken chaser has her mind set on winning until she discovers that sometimes it’s just as satisfying not to catch chickens as it is to catch them.
A fresh voice full of sass and inventive, bold collage illustrations full of surprises creates a childlike escapade brimming with funny high jinks that lead the reader on a merry, memorable chase.
The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County is a 2008 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Janice N. Harrington’s website.
Shelley Jackson – illustrator
To find other perfect picture books please visit Susanna Hill’s Blog.
Art Project – After reading this book, have children collect magazines and catalog their parents are fine with them cutting up along with feathers, buttons, dried pasta, fabric scraps, crayons, cardboard, colored paper and glue sticks. When all their supplies are gathered, they can cut and paste a collage of their own, using today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday choice, The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County, as their inspiration.