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by Joy Cowley & illustrated by David Elliot

Age Range: 9 - 11

Pub Date: May 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-399-24791-0
Publisher: Philomel

Channeling Dick King-Smith, Cowley offers a warmhearted tale set on a chicken farm featuring a lad with a feathered confidante that talks—though only to him. In the double-stranded plot, Josh’s mother is abruptly off to the hospital to prevent another miscarriage, while back on the farm eggs are disappearing. Josh’s hen Semolina fearfully tells him that there’s a fox on the prowl, but Josh can’t convince his distracted dad. Then Semolina disappears, leaving blood and scattered feathers. Though the humans in the cast display individual quirks and feelings, it’s Semolina, temperamental and occasionally poetic—“Sun egg or moon egg, fast time or slow time, foxes hunt chickens with big sharp teeth”—who’s the most vividly drawn character here. Elliot provides an aerial view of the farm, plus a spare selection of spot art. Tucking in just the right number of subplots, the author builds to a climax infused with the sense of the miraculous, leverages happy endings all around (except for the fox) and closes with a twist. Not a standout, but expertly done. (Fantasy. 9-11)