Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman (ages 4 - 8)

Combine beautiful artwork, a story to make you laugh, and silly chickens who just want to help, and you have a perfect recipe for a successful picture book. Deborah Freedman does all this with her new picture book Blue Chicken, but she add in twists to take us to unexpected places - and our students loved it.

Blue Chicken
by Deborah Freedman
NY: Viking / Penguin, 2011
ages 4 - 8
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
Look carefully as you open this picture book. At first, you'll think that you're at a typical farmyard - but if you look closely, you'll realize that you're watching an artist paint a farmyard scene. She's almost done, but a little chicken pops up out of the flat drawing and wants to help. Oh no! The chicken topples over the pot of blue paint, creating a mess all over the drawing. The paint spills, turning everything in its wake blue... until one of the chicken thinks of a solution.

“But wait. Does one of the chickens want to help?”
Blue Chicken has delighted our students - the playfulness of the story, the way that the characters are coming to life and causing havoc with the drawing. They love seeing how Freedman creates movement with the paint. In some ways, the splashes seem so simple that students recognize that they can create the same effect. And yet Freedman's technique is masterful, as she layers shades of blue, from the palest wash to vibrant puddles.

Our second graders were drawn right into the story and loved finding different clues as they went. I wish I could capture the energy in the room and how they were all leaning forward, talking to each other as I read it aloud. They had so much fun with the final twist. This story will appeal to preschoolers as well as older picture book readers, because it works on many layers. If you like this sort of metafiction, where the characters come out of the story to create their own sort of mischief, another story you'd enjoy is David Wiesner's The Three Pigs, the 2002 Caldecott Medal winner. We read Blue Chicken as part of our mock Caldecott unit with 2nd graders.

If you want to learn more about Deborah Freedman's process, head over to an interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Blue Chicken has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist and School Library Journal. The students at Emerson would agree!

The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. I love metafiction! The colours in this seem amazing, I especially like the red wheelbarrow juxtaposed with all tha blue paint. Lovely!

    1. Mary Ann--

      I just found your blog and I love it. What great book reviews. Can't wait to read more.


  2. I see something new every time I look at this book! SO fun!!