Busy-Busy Little Chick

32p. glossary. Farrar. Feb. 2013. RTE $15.99. ISBN 978-0-374-34746-8. LC 2012004871.
PreS-Gr 2—This story is adapted from a fable told by the Nkundo people of Central Africa, and it evokes a storytelling style through vocabulary and rhythm. Mama Nsoso's chicks complain of the cold each night, and the hen promises to build a new ilombe, a sturdy house. Each morning, however, she gets distracted by tasty treats. Undeterred, Little Chick gathers twigs, leaves, grass, and mud and constructs the ilombe himself. Mama clucks with pride, and the chick finally gets a snack. Bright paintings are loose and full of movement. A curly font highlights the text when the chickens find food. The informal pictures work well with the intimate feel of the text. Children will applaud the success of Little Chick and his mother's pride in him. A good addition to units on fables, farm animals, or African culture, and an enjoyable story in general.—Heidi Estrin, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Unlike the industrious Little Red Hen, the hen in this story (from the Nkundo people of Central Africa) is the one who keeps putting off doing any work. When Mama Nsoso's chicks are shivering in their nest at night, she promises they will build a new "ilombe" (house), but each day something yummy begs to be eaten instead: "crunchy-munchy, / sweety-meaty, / big fat worms!" It's "busy-busy" Little Chick who gets to work, ignoring the tempting worms and crickets and corn to gather materials and build. Former children's librarian Harrington knows how to tell a story, and she uses repetitive elements and refrains to keep children engaged and participating. Pinkney here moves away from his usual structured scratchboard illustrations to create free and energetic watercolors in bright yellow, orange, and red, capturing a feeling of motion with his loose black lines. Both Harrington and Pinkney steer clear of any overt moralizing -- the mama hen is warm and loving, the chicks entertainingly cute, and in the end all are delighted to find their beautiful new house. An appended glossary and a comprehensive author's note explain the roots of the tale and the Nkundo words used. susan dove lempke

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