The Chickens Build a Wall


The chickens at the farm are building a wall, and no one is quite sure why. But they know one thing: the hedgehog that wandered in must be trouble. So all winter they build and build, until they have a wall that towers over the barn. When spring comes, though, they find that everything hasn't gone quite according to plan . . .
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The chickens at the farm are building a wall, and no one is quite sure why. But they know one thing: the hedgehog that wandered in must be trouble. So all winter they build and build, until they have a wall that towers over the barn. When spring comes, though, they find that everything hasn't gone quite according to plan . . .
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dumont (A Blue So Blue) crafts a clever barnyard commentary on protectionism, xenophobia, and overreaction. The appearance of a hedgehog, an animal never before seen on the medievalesque farm where the story takes place, brings life to a halt and starts the rumor mill churning, especially after the animal “curl up into a tight ball, to the astonishment of everyone.” The hedgehog soon disappears, as mysteriously as it arrived, but the chickens remain ill at ease. “I bet he didn’t leave empty-handed,” says one. “We should count our chicks!” shouts another. The rooster uses the situation “to take control of a barnyard of full of hens who hadn’t been paying much attention to him,” persuading the hens to work through the winter to build a giant wall to keep out “prickly invaders.” Adult readers won’t have to look hard to spot parallels to contemporary discourse on immigration and other hot-button topics, and the target audience will easily see the chickens’ folly thanks to a drily funny ending and the comedy that runs throughout Dumont’s prose and sly characterizations. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
"On the farm, the chickens have built a wall, though no one is exactly sure why...." One day a hedgehog showed up in the barn to much concern, only to disappear overnight, to more concern. The rooster then takes charge and sets the hens to building a wall to protect against outsiders. Through the winter, the wall grows too high to even see the end. Then, after a celebratory party, when life is getting back to normal, the hedgehog emerges from its winter sleep. The rooster must make an exit for it. But meanwhile, hens and hedgehog get used to each other, and it stays. Readers may need help to see the lesson here, but it is a good one. We are introduced to a few naturalistic anthropomorphic chickens at work on the wall on the jacket/cover, as a quartet of farm animals watches. Double-page scenes effectively depict the actions and emotions. The portrait of the rooster taking command is particularly attractive. The sensitive end pages may offer a moral as well. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—This contemporary parable teaches about the repercussions of intolerance and xenophobia. When a hedgehog appears on the farm, he startles the barnyard animals, who have never seen the likes of one before. While some animals don't see what the fuss is about, the chickens panic, and the rooster suggests they build a wall around the henhouse to keep out this unfamiliar creature. They erect a huge edifice, only to discover that they have forgotten to include a door, and thus have immured themselves along with the hedgehog. After wintering with him, they get used to the little creature, dismantle the wall, and let him stay. The style and palette of Dumont's predominantly double-page illustrations are reminiscent of Henry Cole's in Leslie Helakoski's Big Chickens (Dutton, 2008), but with less obviously cartoonish shenanigans. The friendly looking animals and the bright colors of the pictures lend the serious subject of this tale a more child-friendly tone, especially given the lengthy text. The audience will most likely miss the strong political undercurrent of the story, such as the downright dictatorial depiction of the rooster towering over the crowd of chickens. However, the message about learning about the unfamiliar rather than fearing it is an important one, and this book handles it well.—Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A bunch of deluded clucks build a protective wall that is anything but. The barnyard is going about its usual business when a hedgehog waddles in. The resident animals are intrigued and edge close, whereupon the hedgehog curls into a defensive ball, causing the rat to refer to it as "this chestnut with paws." Though it has disappeared by the next morning, the rooster--a self-appointed pooh-bah, like all roosters--decides "to take control of a barnyard full of hens who hadn't been paying much attention to him." He commands that a wall be built against the prickly invaders, a wall so high even birds couldn't fly over it. So they labor and labor, building a wall of stupendous height, only to find that the hedgehog has been sleeping under the hay, inside the wall, for the winter. In all too fast a wrap-up, the chickens and hedgehog become fast friends. But if the friendship seems too precipitous, maybe a bigger lesson is in the offing here: Walls don't work, from prisoner-of-war camps to national borders. The gorgeous European barnyard is all ocher and sienna, with gray-green shadows, old turrets and tiles highlighting the fiery red wattles of the birds. A beautiful picture book, with an unexpected, yet profound, something to take away. (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802854223
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 4/1/2013
  • Pages: 33
  • Sales rank: 448,054
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean-Fran�ois Dumont is a French author and illustrator who has created many stories for children, including A Blue So Blue (Sterling), winner of the 2004 Prix Saint-Exup�ry, an award given yearly to the best illustrated picture book in France.
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