The Friday Book Review: The Chicken Of The Family.

Today’s book is ‘The Chicken Of The Family‘, written by Mary Amato and illustrated by Delphine Durand. It is published by Putman books.

The story is about two sisters who tease their younger sister by telling her that she is actually a chicken!  They take the joke further by leaving feathers by her bed and an egg, that she has supposedly laid, in the bed. The little sister, Henrietta, believes them and leaves home to join a farm and live with other chickens.

It is illustrated by one of my favourite illustrators, which is why I bought the book in the first place, little realising what a treat the story would be. It is a longish story, so is a picture book for older children , though younger ones would enjoy it too.

The illustrations are painted (in acrylic I think?) and are a mixture of double page spreads, singles and vignettes dotted about. The painting style is quite flat, with patterns /texture added on top.  Durand has clearly had a lot of fun with this book and the details of toys in the girls bedrooms clearly reflect some of the creatures that Durand is so good at creating. I love the lushness of the farm scenes and the cheerfulness of Henrietta playing with the chickens. The expressions of the two older sisters getting exasperated with Henrietta are great and very funny.

In the dedications of the book Amato thanks her agent for telling her a family story, inspiring her to write this. The tone of the story beautifully captures the way kids (and particularly siblings) can be quite cruel, though far from being moralising, it is a very funny book.

On Amato’s website it says that there is also a theatre script of the book and a musical- the chicken costume looks very good! It’s a great book and as it says on the back  ‘sometimes it’s good to be a chicken’ ..

The Friday Book Review: The Wildwood Chronicles.

The Friday Book Review. In this section, posted on a Friday (and I know I’m early, I’m just keen!) I want to bring to your attention some of the brilliant books I have come across. They might be old, new, a great story or fantastic illustrations- but in my opinion they are all great and they are all  for children.

Todays book is ‘The Wildwood Chronicles’ by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis. Published by Canongate Books. It is a couple of inches thick and is one of those chapter books that crosses easily between childrens and adult fiction.

This book is epic. The book tells of how Prue, a girl, witnesses her baby brother being snatched and carried away by a murder of crows. She gives chase and sees them disappear into the Impassable Wilderness, where no one ever goes. The following day she sets off to get him back. An unwelcome school friend  joins her and this is the story of their adventures. But it is so much more.. the world they encounter is beautifully imagined, and described and so well thought out. The writer and illustrator are a couple, and  they had imagined this world between them, long before Meloy wrote it. The illustrations are beautiful. A mix of full colour pages, small black and whites and some silouette illustrations, they just add so much to the text. The illustrations are painted in watercolour with some dip pen. Ellis uses quite a muted, limited palette with brighter colours here and there which really draw the eye in. I love how she uses loose washes combined with detail, she gets a great feeling of depth in her illustrations. As you can tell I really like this book. Best of all it gave you that  feeling that all great books give you, where you have been utterly lost amongst its pages, and can’t stop reading it or thinking about it, but suddenly the end is in sight and you have to try to eek out those last pages. I felt quite bereft when I’d finished it. Thank heavens there is a sequel, not out yet here, called ‘Under Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book 2’. Check out the beautiful animated video on their website.