``There once was a hen / a broody hen, a moody hen. . . .'' With this teasing opening, youngsters are invited to join a determined hen seeking a place to lay her eggs. The softly rendered watercolor illustrations (in a captivating, Wyeth-like palette of grays and beiges) follow a pastoral trail through scenes of windmills, pig-troughs and rooftops--but a few of the hen's disastrous choices. With the help of a farmer, a pen turns out to be the perfect place and--although it is unclear why the eggs are speckled--the hen does brood, and is soon followed around by her new family. The sing-songy text is neatly complemented by the interspersed illustrations of farm life that alternate between detailed landscapes and small caption drawings effectively laid against white space. The farm buildings themselves, in a country French architectural style, are particularly striking. The text possesses an agreeably old-fashioned, poetic flair--its soothing repetitions will linger long after the story is told. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-- The slight story of an inept hen who habitually lays her eggs in inappropriate and precarious places. At last, the farmer places the incompetent fowl in the broody pen where she nestles into the straw and, at long last, succeeds in laying and hatching many speckled chicks. The text is written in a rhythmic, repetitive style. On page after page, in unvarying language, the thick brooder first lays eggs that break and then, cumulatively, lays eggs that hatch. While repetition may be enjoyable and helpful for children to predict and to chant along in spots, here it grows quite monotonous. Furthermore, the text is challenging to read aloud due to its tongue-twisting style. Dunrea's muted watercolors in soft browns, grays, and golds, highlighted with touches of bright scarlet on the hen's comb, add droll touches of humor. The farmer sits, poker faced, as a freshly laid egg rolls off his head. It is made all the funnier by the fact that readers never actually observe the egg splat, but can see it coming. Artful page design adds visual interest. It's a pity that the text seems so tedious when the illustrations are so successful. With so many better choices in the ``chicken fiction'' category (e.g., Heine's The Most Wonderful Egg in the World McElderry, 1983), this one is only an additional purchase. --Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich,
There's none of the usual disorder in Dunrea's picture book barnyard backdrops. Accomplished in peaceful browns and grays, his watercolors show a farmscape precise and orderly, even quiet. His spirited text, however, tells a different story as it follows "that broody hen, that moody hen" on a methodical excursion across the farm--from the windmill to the pig trough to the farmer's black hat and eventually to the henhouse--in search of a safe place to lay her eggs. The playful use of the term "broody" may not mean much to little ones, but the hen's quest for just the right spot makes a delightful read-aloud, with the catchy, cumulative refrain offering plenty of opportunity for children to chant along--till everything starts over again on the last page.