When a chicken wanders into an impoverished Jewish household, little Leora, like children from time immemorial, begs her mother to keep it. Leora isn't just looking for a pet; she yearns for fresh eggs to break up the monotony of the family's lentil soup diet. But her mother is a stickler for the rules: "Finders aren't keepers. This chicken isn't our chicken." Fair enough—but what is the family to do with the parade of livestock that results from their decision?And what is owed the chicken's real owner when he finally appears? Weber (The Yankee at the Seder) and Kleven (Welcome Home, Mouse) give readers food for thought without stepping over the line into didacticism, but the ending, which shows Leora's family joyfully re-embracing deprivation, might test modern readers' credulity. An endnote explains this story's origins in the Talmud and notes the rule's source, Deuteronomy 22:1–3. The serviceable prose, Leora's scold of a mother—a cliché that should be put out to pasture—and the innocuously pretty images add up to a less than persuasive portrait of extreme piety. Ages 4–6. (Aug.)
Review, "In Weber’s straightforward text, Mrs. Bendosa’s well-cadenced voice adds humor (“All this for a chicken we’re giving back?”) while Mr. Bendosa’s refrain—“How much trouble is one little chicken?…is one small goat?…are two small goats?”—speaks to his mensch-like qualities. Kleven’s varied mixed-media illustrations, depicting an indeterminate Old Country setting, are full of texture and patterns." The Horn Book, September/October 2011 Review, "Enlivened with Kleven’s vibrant folk-art collage renderings, this tale will have readers thinking twice before ever saying “finders, keepers” again." Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2011
Review, "The colors are rich; the textures and patterns beg to be touched, and the ending is likely to leave readers pondering this story." School Library Journal, July 1, 2011
When a chicken turns up in the kitchen of the poor Bendosa family, young Leora wants to keep it for its fresh eggs. But her mother reminds her that the chicken is not theirs. Her father agrees, but builds a coop for it until they find the owner. Since the eggs the chicken lays are not theirs, they leave them. As a result, many chicks hatch. Leora and her father take the pesky chickens to sell at the market. They use the money to buy a goat. Although Mrs. Bendosa complains, her husband asks, as he did for the chicken, how much trouble it could be. Since they can't eat the cheese from the goat's milk because it isn't theirs, they sell it and buy another goat. And so it goes, with Leora's mother complaining as the goats multiply. When she can stand it no longer and runs away, Mrs. Bendosa meets the man who lost the first chicken. They tell him that the goats are his. He is grateful, but that is not the end of the retelling of this traditional tale. Kleven maintains the folk character of the story by using mixed media collage and a visual folk art structure to the vignettes and double-page scenes. She frequently frames illustrations with decorative bands of flowers or geometric shapes and adds complex details within landscapes and characters of village life. A note relates the background of the original story in the Talmud, which emphasizes the return of lost property to the owner. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
A story of justice and generosity from the Talmud.
One day a lost chicken wanders into the Bendosas' house. Leora is excited; now they can have fresh eggs! But Mrs. Bendosa reminds her that, contrary to the age-old adage, "finders aren't keepers." They will take care of the chicken until the rightful owner returns. So the family builds a coop, and the chicken lays many eggs. But finders aren't keepers, so the Bendosas leave the eggs alone. Then, the eggs hatch into fuzzy yellow chicks. But the chicks make a mess, so Mr. Bendosa and Leora take them to the market and trade for a goat. Every day, they milk the goat and make some cheese. But finders aren't keepers, so they do not eat the cheese. But then, the cheese begins to smell. So Mr. Bendosa and Leora take the cheese to the market and get another goat. The cumulative chain continues, until a man walking by innocently asks if they have seen a lost chicken. The Bendosas laugh and explain how one tiny chicken has turned into a whole herd of goats—and they all belong to him! Weber has a storyteller's economy with words, but she effectively sketches her characters and gently milks the absurdity of the situation.
Enlivened with Kleven's vibrant folk-art collage renderings, this tale will have readers thinking twice before ever saying "finders, keepers" again. (author's note)
(Picture book/folktale. 4-8)
K-Gr 2—Obeying the Jewish law that "finders aren't keepers," Leora cares for a found chicken while waiting for its rightful owner to return. Soon, the hen produces a flock of chicks that are sold to buy a goat whose milk leads to cheese that is sold to buy more goats that are the perfect gift for the chicken's owner, who eventually passes through and mentions his lost property. As he happily recounts the tale to his family, a lost chicken wanders into his yard…so the kindness likely will be passed on. The lilting text includes humorous phrases like, "The man thanked them so much his mouth got tired." In an author's note, Weber explains the origin of the tale, from the Talmud, and details where and why she used artistic license. Kleven's engaging mixed-media folk-art collages brim with details like a border of cakes and pies, or a coy goat offering a bouquet to Leora. The colors are rich; the textures and patterns beg to be touched, and the ending is likely to leave readers pondering this story.—Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA