Can Hens Give Milk?by Joan Betty Stuchner, Joe Weissmann (Illustrator)
Tova lives with her family on a small farm in the famous town of Chelm, a mythical village populated, according to Jewish folklore, by fools. Tova's farm has hens and even a rooster, but no cow. Her mother, Rivka, wishes they could afford to buy a cow, so they could have fresh milk and butter every day. One night Tova's father has a dream about how to get milk without actually owning a cow. He asks Tova to help him find a way to get milk from their hens, and the results are hilarious. Finally, to the family's joy and the hens' relief, the problem is solved by none other than the wise Rabbi of Chelm himself, and a little extra help from Tova.
An original tale takes readers to that nexus of foolishness, the village of Chelm. Shlomo and Rivka have "five children, twelve scrawny hens, one rooster and not much money." So they use simple logic: A cow gives milk because she eats grass, so if they feed grass to their hens, the hens will give milk. This is, of course, a Chelm story. Chelm, for those who don't know, is a village from Jewish folktales, populated by the most foolish people in the world. Stuchner is completely at home with the almost-logic of Chelm. (It may seem paradoxical to write a new traditional folktale, but it's very much in the spirit of Chelm.) As in the best of the traditional stories, every step of the villagers' thought process makes perfect sense. Readers might even find themselves thinking, "Why shouldn't hens give milk? It's only fair." Children will have a great time looking for the flaw in the argument. There are a few lulls, but Stuchner carries the gag through to a very amusing last page, in which Shlomo imagines a goat trying to hatch an enormous egg. Weissman's illustrations help to sell the joke: The goat just looks so content up there on top of her egg. The story is so successful in making the absurd seem obvious that readers may wonder why they didn't think of it themselves. (Picture book. 4-8)
Read an Excerpt
"Let me ask you a question," said Shlomo. "Why does a cow give milk?" "Everyone knows that, Papa. A cow gives milk because she eats grass." Shlomo and Rivka beamed at their youngest daughter. "What a wise child you are," said Shlomo. "So if we feed grass to our hens, they will still lay eggs, but they will also give us milk." "Shlomo," said Rivka, "you are a genius." "I am indeed," said Shlomo, and he blushed.
Tova rushed into her parents' room. "What's wrong, Papa?"
"Let me ask you a question," said Shlomo. "Why does a cow give milk?"
"Everyone knows that, Papa. A cow gives milk because she eats grass."
Shlomo and Rivka beamed at their youngest daughter.
"What a wise child you are," said Shlomo. "So if we feed grass to our hens, they will still lay eggs, but they will also give us milk."
"Shlomo," said Rivka, "you are a genius."
"I am indeed," said Shlomo, and he blushed.
Meet the Author
Joan Betty Stuchner loved stories. When she wasn’t writing, she worked in a library, taught part-time and acted in community theater. Sadly, Joan lost her battle with cancer on June 7, 2014, but her stories will continue to bring joy to readers for years to come.
Joe Weissmann was born in Austria and came to Canada at the age of eleven. He studied art at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal and Concordia University. An award-winning illustrator, Joe works for both book and magazine publishers in Canada and the United States. His many books include The Bug Book and Bottle, The Bird Book and Feeder, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat and Mummies, Monsters, Ghosts and Magic. He lives in rural Ontario with his wife, two dogs and three cats. For more information, visit www.joeweissmann.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews