Week of March 25, 2012—New Books on My Shelf
Monday, March 26, 2012—Three Hens and a Peacock
One of the books I plucked from the book store at SCBWI, Miami, was Three Hens and a Peacock (Peachtree, © 2011). Three things first attracted me to this book: the cover illustration and the names Lester L. Laminack and Henry Cole. If you don’t know these guys, Google them. Lester is an author and educator, a friend to teachers and children, and a true Southern gentlemen with a folksy writing style. Henry is a Floridian, equally a gentleman, and arguably one of the greats in the world of American illustrators.
The story is about a peacock who shows up expectedly on the Tuckers farm when his crate falls off a passing truck. The new visitor soon attracts visitors to the farm, making the farm’s three hens very unhappy. The hens are upset that they do all the work and the peacock gets all the attention. The wise old hound dog suggests: “Why don’t you just swap jobs?” Soon the peacock and hens have traded responsibilities. The three hens gussy up themselves and begin to prance up and down the road to attract customers. The peacock squeezes into the hen house and tries with all his might to lay an egg. That’s when things really get funny!
The story line is something we all can relate to and the comical results of strutting a mile in someone’s shoes leads to hilarious results. The book contains excellent pacing that keeps moving the reader forward in the story. The use of transitions (eventually, of course, day after day, etc.) also contribute to the smooth flow of the story. Rich verb choices make the book a fun read, as does the well-placed dialogue that reveals the character’s personalities without an over reliance on colloquialisms, dropped –g’s, or other tricks people think makes for countrified dialogue.
When the peacock admits he’s no good at laying eggs and the hens confess that they aren’t all that great at strutting, they all can go back to the things they actually do well. Just when we think things are getting back to normal on the Tuckers’ farm, Henry Cole surprises us by showing another crate falling from a passing truck, leaving the reader to think another calamity is about to hit the farm.
Cole’s illustrations from unexpected perspectives add to the story. Animal characters are Cole’s forte, and in this book each animal is shown in his or her glory (and hilarity).
Three Hens and a Peacock. Buy it. Read it. Learn from it.