Hattie the egg-barren hen has lovingly raised a large and diverse brood, and now it’s time to let her adopted offspring “fly the nest.”
Having gathered abandoned eggs from all over the world, as described in Hattie Peck (2016), the chickless mother hen glories in taking her dozens of babies—who belong to every egg-laying species from flamingo to toucan, crocodile to turtle, platypus to echidna—on outings, giving them baths, knitting them all treats for Christmas, and celebrating their common birthday. But when the time comes, with regret but no reluctance, she leads them across deep waters, over city rooftops, down into caves, and in general back where she first found each one. Back home she goes, to sit wistfully alone and knit (holding the needles incorrectly, as is oddly common in picture books)…until that birthday rolls around again and brings a grand, climactic “SURPRISE!” Aside from their forms, the hatchlings are not individualized, so the focus remains steady on the adoptive parent here. Still, Levey’s colorful assemblages of cute, active baby animals crowding around their teal-feathered caregiver add large measures of humor and joie de vivre.
The metaphor will be transparent even to younger readers, and Hattie’s unwavering love for her foster clan casts a warm glow over the entire episode. (Picture book. 5-8)