This book might as well be titled How Not to Draw a Chicken.
The cover, which substitutes “a Chicken” for a crossed-out “Animals,” gives fair warning of the strangeness inside. Beginning like a traditional how-to book, the handwritten instructions become increasingly bizarre—almost absent-minded. In a series of line drawings, a beak is drawn and joined to a pair of legs, but the body is forgotten; the beak-on-legs creation then runs away while the rest of the chicken body is drawn. The body, neck and wings are completed in a haphazard fashion, and although the beak on legs returns, it is never joined to the rest of the body. Another chicken (a whole one) runs up to observe, even as the narrative instructs readers to draw an egg and add eyes and legs to it. Finally, after a few false starts, a “cockerel” (this is a British import) is drawn correctly. The attractive, square, flip-book format belies the surreal execution of the concept, but it’s possible to see how the deliberately incompetent drawings might inspire creative children to use the elements—beak, legs, feet, wings, eyes, cockerel’s crest (“it’s a bit like a floppy crown or a glove with six fingers”)—to create their own silly animals.
Minimalist silliness that may be more art than substance. (Picture book. 5-12)