January 03, 2014

A chicken’s right to bear arms

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Imagine a fluffy yellow chick who, instead of wings, has very long, skinny and dangling arms. Elizabeth Rose Stanton’s debut picture book, Henny, is a gentle tale about just such a chicken. Preschoolers will relish this saga about the pluses and minuses of being different.

On some days Henny feels triumphant as the other barnyard animals gaze at her in awe; but at other times, they simply laugh, sending Henny to the corner to cry. As Henny grows up, she frets about a multitude of un-chicken-like issues, such as being right-handed or left-handed, or the intricacies of using gloves, mittens and buttons.

Stanton’s watercolor and pencil illustrations wonderfully convey Henny’s changing emotions in lively, understated drawings. Stanton also injects wonderful humor along the way: Henny worries “about things she didn’t quite understand?like tennis elbow, and hangnails, and whether she might need deodorant.” There is wordplay as well, as when Henny realizes she can “comb her comb.”

Readers will cheer as Henny learns to turn her difference into an asset. She starts helping Mr. Farmer with chores and enjoys having the ability to point, twiddle her thumbs and cross her arms. She begins imagining the many things she may be able to do, such as hailing a taxi, joining a circus and even flying.

Stanton turns Henny’s accomplishments into a visual feast as this unusual chicken does things like balance on figure skates and swing through the air on a trapeze. Henny’s journey of adjustment and empowerment is a useful lesson for young children, told in a fun, imaginative way.

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Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781442484368

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