Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A patchwork of gentle watercolor images brings a French village to life in this gleeful retelling of a story by Guy de Maupassant. Each page features a series of variably sized panels, as many as a dozen. Like stills from a movie, they tell the story frame by frame, complementing the written text. After a fall, a bon vivant named Antoine (Toine to his friends) takes to his bed, where his morale is boosted considerably by an endless string of sympathetic visitors. The sight of her husband in such high spirits infuriates his hot-tempered and overworked wife, Colette, and she concocts a plan to keep him busy: he will keep 10 eggs warmly buried beneath pillows in his bed and hatch them. The unlikely episode unfolds mirthfully as Toine undertakes his new role with all the anxiety of an expectant father. A few turns of phrase are a little awkward ("Toine's good nature in bed is too much for [his wife]") but for the most part the translation skips smoothly forward. The illustrations, with their multiple scenarios and keen detail, ensure that there is always something new to observe in repeat readings. A muted, earth-tone palette imbues warmth, befitting a folktale. In a nice touch, Halperin (Hunting the White Cow) includes Maupassant himself as a character at Toine's bedside, his nose always in a newspaper, hunting for the next good story. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
K-Gr 4When burly, big-hearted cafe owner Toine takes to his bed after a back injury, it is almost too much for his sharp-tongued wife to bear. In addition to taking care of her precious chickens, she has to tend to her husband's needs as well. One day, one of his many visitors suggests that Madame Colette use Toine as a human incubator. "When chickens grow teeth!" he roars, but Madame Colette is determined. By the end, Toine is nearly as a devoted chicken tender as Madame Colette, and everyone is happy. Although Halperin's present-tense retelling of Guy de Maupassant's story seems a little awkward at first, she quickly draws readers into it. She has an excellent sense for the natural rhythms of language, conveying a leisurely bucolic mood without allowing the story to flag or falter. Best of all are the finely detailed pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, many of which are like patchwork quilts of little scenes: Toine reading the paper as his wife scrubs his back; Toine savoring a cream puff; an exhausted Madame Colette slumped in a chair. Madame Colette is especially fun, even at her crabbiest, with her many colored, layered house dresses and her cone-shaped turban. Halperin captures nicely the subtle changes in her temperament. There is much here for readers to pore over, and they may well be absorbed by both story and pictures until chicken grow teeth.Donna L. Scanlon, Lancaster County Library, PA
When a fall from a ladder leaves jolly Antoine (known as Toine) bedridden, it also puts him at the mercy of his shrewish wife. Madame Colette raises chickens, and with her shrill voice, thin body, and skinny legs, she resembles a resident of the coop herself. She uses Toine as an incubator and, amidst his protestations, tucks five eggs under each of his elbows. For 21 days he nurtures the eggs, hushing his many visitors and hardly stirring himself. The hatching of the chicks mellows Madame Colette; Toine, once again on his feet, feels like a proud father.
Although kids will adore the concept of hatching eggs under one's arms, the translation of Guy de Maupassant's story is not always smooth; exclamations that work well in French teeter a bit in English. Halperin (who illustrated Anne Shelby's Homeplace, 1995, etc.) draws readers in with highly detailed, multiple-panel paintings of the French countryside. However, an overall softening of the characters' eccentricities makes this version needlessly skim over the hearty, bucolic humor for which the tale, setting, and two protagonists were created.