Children’s Book of the Week: Henny Penny

Henny Penny, retold and illustrated by Jane Wattenberg

This book just cracks me up. It’s one of those that I wasn’t sure would translate into kid heads, but they think it’s as funny as I do. You may better know Jane Wattenberg as Mrs. Mustard, she of Mrs. Mustard’s Baby Faces (that book that everyone has when they’re baby is born, and it’s pretty much the only one that the baby seems genuinely engaged by). Anyway. This book is a lot wackier than Baby Faces.

It’s pretty much the classic “sky is falling” Henny Penny story, word-wise. But the illustrations are these crazy photo collages, where the various fowl are traipsing by the pyramids and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Plus somehow Wattenberg managed to get (or manipulate to get) photos of these animals so they are making the most perfect facial expressions. Plus the near-final image of the fox with duck feet sticking out of his mouth is just priceless.

And I guess when I say that it’s standard, word-wise, that’s not quite true. There’s some pretty hilarious dialogue, like Henny Penny saying, “Chickabunga!” when she gets hit in the head with an acorn, and other birds saying things like “Shake, rattle, and roll! The sky is falling! It’s coming on down! Henny-Penny saw it and heard it and it SMACKED her on her fine red comb! We’re FULL TILT to tell the king!” I hope I’m getting the fun of this book across. The pictures are very silly, and very funny, and the words move things along at a fun, somewhat ridiculous, and goofily rhyming pace.

Now go check out Jane Wattenberg’s website. Jumping sheep and everything.

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