The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin

98278650Lynn: Move over Philip Marlowe, a new gumshoe is in town.  Meet J.J. Tully, former search and rescue dog  – now turned out to grass in his retirement.    And sister, there’s chickens in that grass.  J.J. has barely settled in when trouble comes knocking – trouble in the form of a pretty tough bird.  The Trouble with Chickens (Harper/Balzer + Bray 2011) is a look at the underbelly of the backyard few of us ever see.  Here’s J.J. to spell out the hard truth.

It was a hot sunny day when I met that crazy chicken.

So hot that sometimes I think the whole thing may have been a mirage.

But mirages don’t have chicken breath, mister.

The lady tells an ugly story.  Millicent the chicken is missing two of her four chicks.  She needs help and she’s got a note loaded with clues.  The suspect?  A crazy inside dog, Vince the Funnel.  It’s not pretty when envy rules the roost.

OK – so young readers may not know about noir detective Raymond Chandler but they’ll get the idea and most of the jokes.  Cronin’s crack-up story will make everyone cackle and Kevin Cornell’s eggcentric illustrations are the perfect pairing to a mystery that is far from a featherweight.  The focus group and I give this three pinfeathers up.

Cindy: I’m glad to hear that our 7-year-old focus group members are scrambling to recommend this story. I thought it was a hoot but I do think it is going to fare best with strong early readers, not only for the humorous take on noir detective stories but for the structure and the sophisticated vocabulary. I would have preferred a more clearly identified shift in narration as J.J. Tully and Vince the Funnel alternate telling the story, but once readers realize what is going on, the clues are there for them to keep things straight. Cronin has as much fun in the barnyard here as she did in her hilarious Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type and the last page promises that the fun is not done. Stay tuned for more case work by “Hero Dog” and while you wait, you can check out this Kirkus interview with Cronin.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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