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Blue Chicken

Blue Chicken

5.0 2
by Deborah Freedman

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A mind-bendingly clever farmyard romp

In this deceptively simple picture book, author-illustrator Deborah Freedman has created an irresistible character that springs to life and wreaks havoc in a farmyard with a pot of blue paint. The innocent chicken just wants to help, but things get worse and worse - and bluer and bluer - the more she tries. Playing with


A mind-bendingly clever farmyard romp

In this deceptively simple picture book, author-illustrator Deborah Freedman has created an irresistible character that springs to life and wreaks havoc in a farmyard with a pot of blue paint. The innocent chicken just wants to help, but things get worse and worse - and bluer and bluer - the more she tries. Playing with colors and perspective, and using minimal text, this richly layered story reveals new things to see and laugh about with each reading.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Freedman’s (Scribble) second outing recalls some of David Wiesner’s work, opening with a painting of a painting: an unfinished picture of a barnyard lies on an illustrator’s desk, three-dimensional tools and pots of ink scattered across its flat surface. Within the painting, chickens sleep in the coop until one plucky hen emerges from the picture plane, knocking over a pot of blue ink and flooding the barnyard. The rest of the animals, roused over several spreads into three-dimensional existence, glare at the chicken. “Maybe the chicken can undo the blue?” She spills a jar of clean water across the page, which—in a tour de force of painterly control—washes the blue away, “Except for the sky. The sky should stay blue on a morning so clear.” Because Freedman’s main interest is in the tension between the two- and three-dimensional spaces, there’s not much time to develop the animals as characters. But she works through the technical problems thoughtfully and skillfully, allowing children to both decipher the action and ponder its implications. Ages 3–5. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
From the author-illustrator who brought us Scribble, here is another picture book that plays with words and images. Beginning with an "end," and ending in a "new beginning," Freedman plays throughout with the ingredients of her tale: barn, chickens, wheelbarrow, paint, and water. Shades of color and near-rhyme jostle each other for room on the page, as a small chicken "helps" in exactly the way that young children do. It is easy to lose track of what is real and what is not, which is exactly the point! Engaging as this might be in itself, Freedman adds yet another layer with her nod to William Carlos Williams and the famous red wheelbarrow, not to mention those white chickens and the glaze of water. It is an introduction for the very youngest readers, listeners, turners of pages, to the worlds of possibility in a very particular poetic visualization. The panic of the story is compelling, the shifts in Freedman's palette reflecting the undoing of the little protagonist's initial mishap. It is all rendered playfully, replete with self-reference, a mix of predictability, and surprise. The final spread pulls out to show the barn being painted outside. Inside, on the table, is a painting of barn and sky, wheelbarrow and chicken—in fact, the stuff of this very story. But wait. Look again, and the visual narrative threatens to spin off once more in a new direction, suggesting unexpected layers of reality. Deliciously complex, yet perfectly accessible. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Blue Chicken wasn't always blue. When she was created in an artist's studio, she was a bright white, as she should be. But then she decides that she wants to help finish the picture by painting the barn. She climbs right out of the painting and onto the edge of a paint container. Shockingly, it topples over, splashing blue paint all over her and onto the other animals. She is sorry, so sorry and she tries to undo the mishap. She intentionally tips over the rinse water and is relieved to watch as it washes away the blue. The animals are happy to be returned to their original state while the errant color creates a perfect wash of blue in the sky. In a surprise ending, readers find the little chicken a bright shade of red from another botched attempt, this time to help the artist who is painting an actual barn outside the studio. The chicken is childlike in its strong desire to help and often be responsible for dire consequences. Full of surprise and emotion, the story is very clever, and children will love the idea of a subject popping out of a painting and creating such mischief. Freedman's artwork features sharp pen-and-ink watercolor drawings and an expert use of perspective. The blue splash created by the chicken is an exciting contrast to the realistic style of the artist's rendering. The book has much to pore over on every page, and children will want to experience the action over and over again.—Diane Antezzo, Ridgefield Library, CT
Kirkus Reviews

Breathtakingly beautiful meta-illustrations will draw many eyes to this tale of a curious chicken who spills some paint.

"This picture is almost finished," narrates an unseen artist whose life-size pencil and brush lie across a barnyard drawing with cow, chicken coop and wheelbarrow softly shaded and colored but a barn only outlined. "[T]his day is perfect for painting the barn. / But wait. Does one of the chickens want to help?" A small white chicken patters out from the coop onto the blank white background, climbing up onto the edge of a paint pot—and tipping it over. Blue paint flows down the page, splattering on finished and unfinished bits of the original picture. It floods onto pansies, chicks and the cow, whose "moo wakes the chickens. They're peevish and blue." Irritated blue chickens give chase across now all-blue spreads; the original chicken who "just wanted to... / HELP!" is intimidated and "[s]incerely sorry." Watercolor washes and splashes, from pale blue to dark, create wonderful, wet patterns; their liquid edges contrast alluringly with fine pencil lines and shadings. Resourcefully, the chicken tips out the artist's brush-rinsing water jar, drenching and cleansing this world back into neatness. But is that the artist at the end, painting a real barn outdoors while something hilarious happens indoors in her studio?

Delicate and durable, visually sophisticated yet friendly: simply exquisite. (Picture book. 3-7)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
AD270L (what's this?)
File size:
15 MB
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
3 - 5 Years

Meet the Author

Deborah Freedman (www.deborahfreedman.net) lives in Hamden, Connecticut.

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Blue Chicken 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Melanie-Ski More than 1 year ago
Adorable merging of print and real life! The story begins as a picture of a barn scene is begin painted by an unseen artist. The brown chicken coop is complete along with the chicks and chickens. The artist is going to work on the barn now. One curious chicken eyeballs the blue paint, hops off the painting and decides to 'help' paint the picture. She ends up spilling the blue paint all over the pages and everything becomes a blue watercolored mess! Goodness that little chicken has caused havic and is so sorry for the mess and wants to 'undo the blue'. Artistic story line of this cute little chicken getting into trouble and becoming part of the real life scene though he was simply just a part of the painting. The other farm animals follow suit as the blue paint runs across their pages turning them blue as well. The creativity of having the painting come to life, run ammuck and then become a painting again is so fun for curious children. The words and drawings flow together so beautifully and you want to reread the story as soon as you come to the end! Thanks to Penguin for sending me this book to review and to Deborah Freedman for passing along my information to them. This was a fantastic children' book!
psycheKK More than 1 year ago
I saw an image from this book and that was enough to make me want to buy it.  I am so not disappointed.  This book combines farm animals AND art.  Brilliant!  The artwork in this book propels the story, but the text is still delightful and simple enough for the youngest of listeners and the youngest of readers.  My son as been known to capsize his paints and color more than he intended, so this story is very relatable for him. Of course, the illustrations are wonderful.  As much as I love the helpful, clumsy blue chicken, I think it is the blue-yellow duckling that captured my heart.   I highly recommend this adorably whimsical book, especially for preschoolers, whose "help" can sometimes lead to some colorful situations.