Review of the Day: Little Chicken’s Big Day by Katie Davis and Jerry Davis
Are there any picture book catchphrases that have entered the cultural lexicon? I’m serious in asking this, but I’m a poor judge of what everyone knows. When you spend your days reading lines like “He was a big FAT caterpillar” aloud and then find yourself working those phrases into your everyday speech, you’re not exactly the best average consumer. Still, even I know that when you look at the great picture book classics, they may be great books but you don’t hear words or phrases from them showing up in late night talk show opening monologues or anything. Leno isn’t throwing out a “Let me drive the bus!” reference and Conan isn’t bringing up Madeline’s line to the tiger in the zoo. The closest I can come up with might be Goodnight Moon and its lulling lines. If a comedian starts saying, “Good night” in a variety in different ways, folks know what they mean. Otherwise, there’s not much. Maybe Little Chicken’s Big Day will change all that. Because when it comes to memorable lines, I suspect Katie and Jerry Davis are going to go down in history for inspiring a whole generation of kids to chirp cheerily to their parents, “I hear you clucking, Big Chicken”.
It’s early in the morning and it’s time for Little Chicken to get dressed, wash his face, and get ready for the day. Each time his mother tells him these things he comes back with a prompt, “I hear you cluckin’, Big Chicken.” Then it’s off to have some fun. Yet while following his mother Little Chicken gets pretty distracted. A lovely butterfly catches his eye and next thing he knows he’s alone. Fortunately, mama’s not far away calling his name, to which he replies (all together now) “I hear you cluckin’, Big Chicken.” Then home and bed and when her baby whispers, “I love you, Mama” it meets a gentle “I hear you cluckin’, Little Chicken.”
The given story behind the book’s creation is that co-author Jerry Davis worked or knew a fellow employee who, when asked to do anything by his boss, would reply “I hear you cluckin’, Big Chicken.” It really was a natural fit for the picture book format, though of course the tone is entirely different. In the original format it was a snarky line. Here it does have a bit of cheek to it at first, but as it goes each version of it has a different meaning. Cheeky first. Bothered next. Overjoyed the third time. Loving at last. On a personal level I appreciated the fact that they removed the “g” in the word “clucking” too. The story itself is really just there to hang on the already existing phrase. We’ve loads of stories for kids about getting separated from a parent and finding them again, but they kind of blur together after a while. What sets this apart is the catchphrase. Right there, you have something different. Something new. Something, dare I say, memorable.
Davis employs a simple thick black lined style. Lots of vibrant primary colors (your reds, your yellows, your blues). Lots of white space as well. The chickens are amusingly rendered with sticklike little legs. I had a special appreciation for mama chicken’s high-heeled shoes, looking like nothing so much as those old Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck oversized feminine footwear more than anything else. The style is ideal for those kids that still need big contrasting elements to capture and sustain their interest.
Like I say, it’s covering a lot of ground that we’ve seen before. When that happens, you need something different there to set it apart from the crowd. Enter: Catchphrase. The rest of it’s cute enough, but it’s that singular line that’s going to find a comfy corner of your brain to occupy and live in. Touching on fears most children can identify with, Davis & Davis find their hook and run with it. A gentle, fun little story that lingers. Lingers loud and proud. A fun one.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from author for review.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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