I have been hauling around a copy of Blue Chicken for at least four months. Something about that big-footed little yellow duck and her chicken friend on the cover and the streaks and drips of blue, blue, blue kept me returning to it.
Here we have two barns, an unfinished farm scene painting resting on a table and the other a real barn through the window. That window helps ease the young reader into a story that mixes reality and fantasy. Using some of the meta-fictive techniques we have seen from David Wiesner in The Three Pigs and with a healthy nod to Harold and his crayon, the chicken topples the lidless paint jar to help “finish” that painting left on the work table. The blue paint splatters, spreads, and covers the whole painting, upsetting the animals, who are now wide awake and in distress. Luckily, our little chicken spies a jar of water (or turpentine) and uses her strength and her ducky assistant to topple that too, cleaning up the mess. Mostly.
This is high energy at its happiest and I smile every time I read this one.
Now, here is where I reveal that I am secretly just like my literal-minded second graders. I want my pretend world to make sense.
SO, the second grader in me has some questions: How did the blue paint, after being cleaned up, remain only in the sky and not on the other white places? Why did the artist leave her valuable paintbrushes submerged upside-down in the water jar? Why would the artist carefully close the red jar of paint and not the blue? Where is the yellow paint? How did our feathered pals unscrew the jar of red paint?
One other thing, since I am on a roll here–is there such a thing as too many words in a picture book? If so, this already spare text still seems a little wordy. There is some redundancy between text and illustration. For instance, on the page where the paint is spreading, the text says, “She’s toppled the BLUE. And the spilled blue is spreading. Till the ground grows blue too!” The illustrations do not extend the text. Those of you who dislike wordless books will likely disagree with me, but a couple of the other spreads would have been fun (better?) with no words at all.
Speaking of wordy, this is.