Friday, August 19, 2011

Three hens and a peacock by Lester L. Laminack, illustrated by Henry Cole

A peacock suddenly shows up on a sleepy farm. Not knowing how farm animals are supposed to behave, he does what he does best; shows off his feathers and shrieks. He quickly becomes the big attraction for the farmstand and the farm is busier and happier than ever. Until the chickens decide they're doing all the work and the peacock isn't helping at all!

So they switch places for the day, with the dolled-up hens as roadside attractions and the peacock trying his best to lay eggs. But male peacocks, of course, can't lay eggs and ordinary hens, even in jewelry, aren't very impressive - or big enough to catch the attention of passing cars. Both sides realize their jobs are important and require more effort than they had expected. Reconciled to their own jobs, the peacock and the hens switch back and all is peaceful once more. Until...

The text is a little lengthy, but moves smoothly through the story, emphasizing the sounds of the farm and the clash of personalities between the different fowl. The real draw for this picture book is Henry Cole's illustrations from the sleepy dog to the pop-eyed chickens, with the rather feather-headed peacock providing giggles all the way with his transparent face showing every emotion, from worried to proud to determined to crestfallen.

This story is a funny retelling of the Norwegian folktale, sometimes called "The day the husband minded the house" where a husband scornful of his wife's labors switches places with her and discovers just how hard her job is. Henry Cole's illustrations are always fun and kids of all ages will enjoy this story.

Verdict: Not a required purchase, but an excellent book for storytimes and a good addition to any picture book collection.

ISBN: 9781561455645; Published March 2011 by Peachtree; Review copy provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter

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