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CAN HENS GIVE MILK? by Joan Betty Stuchner


by Joan Betty Stuchner & illustrated by Joe Weissmann

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: May 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55469-319-1
Publisher: Orca

An original tale takes readers to that nexus of foolishness, the village of Chelm. Shlomo and Rivka have “five children, twelve scrawny hens, one rooster and not much money.” So they use simple logic: A cow gives milk because she eats grass, so if they feed grass to their hens, the hens will give milk. This is, of course, a Chelm story. Chelm, for those who don’t know, is a village from Jewish folktales, populated by the most foolish people in the world. Stuchner is completely at home with the almost-logic of Chelm. (It may seem paradoxical to write a new traditional folktale, but it's very much in the spirit of Chelm.) As in the best of the traditional stories, every step of the villagers’ thought process makes perfect sense. Readers might even find themselves thinking, “Why shouldn’t hens give milk? It’s only fair.” Children will have a great time looking for the flaw in the argument. There are a few lulls, but Stuchner carries the gag through to a very amusing last page, in which Shlomo imagines a goat trying to hatch an enormous egg. Weissman’s illustrations help to sell the joke: The goat just looks so content up there on top of her egg. The story is so successful in making the absurd seem obvious that readers may wonder why they didn’t think of it themselves. (Picture book. 4-8)