I don’t know if I could single out one memory to share that ties into today’s Perfect Picture Book Review that delves, with gentle hands, into the tender topic of the cycle of life from birth to death.
Growing up on the top of a heavily wooded hill, surrounded by a quilt of farmland, my family encountered a number of animals in need of care. If you’ve been a long-time follower of my blog, you’ll remember a number of stories I’ve shared about the injured animals we welcomed to stay with us while we cared for them and readied them to return to the wild. Unfortunately, not all of the animals survived. I might have learned the concept of death, early on, but no matter how many animals passed away, death never became easier to understand or accept.
The picture book I’m sharing today tells the story of a loss from a unique perspective. Not only do we learn about the life cycle of a chicken from the moment it breaks free of its egg to its untimely death from a predator, but the story guides a child toward an understanding of the way nature works in the wild, and that understanding leads to forgiveness.
Title – Sonya’s Chickens
Written and illustrated by – Phoebe Wahl
Published – Tundra Books – 2018
Suitable for ages – 4 to 8.
Topics – The cycle of life, sadness, and comfort.
Opening – One day, Sonya’s papa came home with three fluffy chicks. He gave the chicks to Sonya. “It can be your job to take care of them,” he told her.
The chicks lived in a cardboard box in the house while Sonya and her parents spruced up the old coop in the yard. Sonya took good care of the chicks. She liked to keep them tucked in her sweater for warmth. “I’ll be your mama,” she told them.
Amazon Review – View it HERE. A beautifully told story about love, loss, and the circle of life from Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award winner Phoebe Wahl. Warm, nostalgic illustrations capture the earthy feel of this book about a little girl’s chicken who is stolen by a fox.
Sonya raises her three chickens from the time they are tiny chicks. She feeds them, shelters them, and loves them. Everywhere Sonya goes, her chicks are peeping at her heels. Under her care, the chicks grow into hens and even give Sonya a wonderful gift: an egg! One night, Sonya hears noises coming from the chicken coop and discovers that one of her hens has disappeared. Where did the hen go? What happened to her? When Sonya discovers the answers, she learns some important truths about the interconnectedness of nature and the true joys and sorrows of caring for another creature.
Why do I like this book? Sonya’s Chickens approaches the subject of death with great compassion and tenderness, keeping a child’s emotional needs at the forefront from cover to cover. As a mom, few topics challenged me as much, during my daughter’s early years, as explaining the meaning of death. Phoebe Wahl helps both the main character, Sonya, and the reader understand this aspect of nature in which a predator takes the life of an animal in the child’s care. I was stunned at the power of words that turn Sonya’s sadness and negativity into feelings of understanding and forgiveness.
I would describe the illustrations as enchanting. Through the use of watercolor, collage, and colored pencil Phoebe Wahl presents us with detailed pieces of art that capture her deep love of nature, the innocence of childhood, and the highs and lows of an emotional journey. It isn’t often I find a book that speaks to my heart and delights my eyes and ears so well.
Learn more about Phoebe Wahl HERE.
Other books written and illustrated by Phoebe Wahl are…
I invite you to visit here next week for The Monday Poems.