by Jean-Francois Dumont
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
“Let’s build a wall around the henhouse,” the rooster suggested. “A wall so high that no wild animals will be able to get over it. So high that even birds won’t be able to fly over it!”
And as one flock, the enthusiastic hens set to work.
Inside Jacket: The chickens at the farm are building a wall, and no one is 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 overs the barn. When spring comes, though, they find that everything hasn’t gone quite according to plan . . .
First Sentence: On the farm, the chickens have built a wall, though no one is exactly sure why.
One day a small hedgehop appears at the farm. None of the farm animals, especially the chickens, could ever recall seeing such a wild animal. One by one, the animals came over to look, until the hedgehog curled up into a ball and remained that way, motionless, all day and evening. A small goose said the animal may be frightened of the crowd, but no one heard him. The next day, the hedgehog was gone. Instead of calming the animal’s nerves, they got worse.
“Who does that creature think he is?” — “Gone, like a thief! Strange” — “I bet he didn’t leave empty-handed.” — “We should count our chickens” — “And our eggs.”
The rooster suggests the chickens build a wall high enough to keep wild animals out of the farm. The chickens, still worked up, jumped at the chance to do something with their feelings. They built that wall all through winter. When spring arrived, it was so high no one could see the top. It was then that the chickens realized their biggest problem. It was not the hedgehog.
This story, originally published in France, is simple yet has wonderful lessons. I am glad Eerdmans brought it to the US. The hedgehog first made some hens curious, then a few other skeptical, until they were mostly frenzied and scared at something they had never seen before. For his part, the hedgehog becomes overwhelmed, or maybe scared, and evades all by curling up into a ball—his safe zone. No one reaches out; no one tries to learn about the other; no one makes a new friend. Soon bored, the hens go back to work, though they keep a distrustful eye on the motionless ball of quills. Nothing happens.
I think The Chickens Build a Wall is a book teachers could use to open up all sorts of discussions. This is great to read to a class before the new kid arrives. Any child who worries a lot might see the waste of time worry is for the chickens. This book would have been indispensable as a tool when I was a social worker. The story is non-threatening. Neither side is hurt, with exception of muscle-soreness for the chickens. A child can be a worrying chicken, the feared and isolated hedgehog, or the foolish rooster.
The illustrations do a good job representing the story. It is always helpful when the author is the illustrator. The illustrations have loads of action. Except for a change of color, the chickens look identical, until you look at their eyes and see the rich emotions. Plus, the hens are always on the move. The hedgehog is all body language. Rolled up in a ball he looks afraid, tired, or worried. With his nose pointing slightly up, the hedgehog looks curious. These little details give the illustrations much meaning. I expect children will notice and appreciate these details.
The Chickens Build a Wall is a fun read, with great illustrations, and lots of humor. The end twist is especially good. This is a wonderful story, but more, it can be extremely useful in the classroom and at home. Worrying is a big twenty-first century problem. The hedgehog worrying the chickens over nothing is typical of most our worries—the great majority of them never occur. If The Chicken Builds a Wall can help children understand this and worry less, it belongs in every home and classroom.
by Jean-Francois Dumont bio biblio Eerdmans Books for Young Readers website blog facebook twitter Released April 1, 2013 ISBN: 978-0-8028-5422-3 33 Pages Ages 4 to 8 . © 2013 Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, used with permission. Text & Illustrations: Copyright © 2011 by Jean-Francois Dumont
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- Review: The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean-Francois Dumont (wakingbraincells.com)