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Paulette Bourgeois. Illustrated by Bill Slavin.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 1990.
32pp., galley, $11.95.
ISBN 0-921103-95-6. CIP.

Subject Headings:

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7

Reviewed by Nonna Charles.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

It was with great anticipation that I read Paulette Bourgeois' new book, Too Many Chickens, having enjoyed her previous publications, especially Big Sarah's Little Boots¹ and Franklin in the Dark². Bill Slavin's lively, colourful illustrations promised a suitable accompaniment.

The story is about Mrs. Kerr's class, which receives a dozen eggs from a farmer. After the children diligently look after the eggs for twenty-one days, they open and out come the chicks "colour of sweet butter and soft as cotton balls." The chicks soon grow and become livelier (and smellier) until they start laying eggs and Mrs. Kerr teaches her class to gather and sell the eggs.

One day the farmer arrives with a gift of a couple of rabbits to add to the egg-laying chickens. Soon there are sixteen bunnies and Mrs. Kerr teachers her class to knit angora hats. (One wonders who cut, carded, spun and dyed the yarn.) Again the farmer arrives with another gift, a great big old nanny goat. But all is well because Mrs. Kerr teaches the children to milk the goat and sell the milk. They soon earn enough money selling the eggs, hats and milk to buy a small farm(!) far away from school and the caretaker retires there to look after the chickens, bunnies and goat. It appears the children have seen the last of the animals, and good riddance.

One problem with the story is the lack of a central character. Is it wimpy Mrs. Kerr, the rambunctious children, the indifferent caretaker? And what is the main conflict? That there are too many animals in the classroom? That they smell? That the farmer doesn't take them back? How is the conflict resolved? By buying a faraway farm with egg, milk and hat money so the caretaker can move there with all the animals? Was there any learning or change in any of the characters, Mrs. Kerr, the children or the caretaker?

After considering these questions, I must conclude that Too Many Chickens suffers from too many characters without a central protagonist, too many conflicts without a central plot, too many unsatisfactory resolutions without a believable solution. In the end, a disappointment .

Nonna Charles, Van Horne Elementary School, Vancouver, BC.

¹Reviewed vol. XVI/2 March 1988, p.56.
²Reviewed vol. XV/2 March 1987, p.77.

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