As a flock of chickens grows up on a farm, they get to know the other animals and welcome a new puppy in this illustrated children’s book.
For his birthday, a Caucasian farm worker named Lasse is given 14 chicks, a coop, and supplies by the “barn girls” to raise hens that will lay eggs. Each chick gets a name, such as “Scrambled” or “Benedict”; the smallest gets the special moniker “Runtamuffin,” or “Runti” for short. The chicks grow fast, protected in their spacious, safe coop. When they’re old enough, they’re allowed to run around the property, with Bodo, a Hungarian Visla dog, to watch over them. The canine enjoys tagging along as the hens investigate all the exciting things on a farm. Although they’re a little scared of the big horses, they soon discover which ones are friendly. One big, beautiful horse, Mariett, gets special attention from people on the farm, so Runti makes her acquaintance. Mariett has great stories of flying to Europe, being shown in a ring, and winning ribbons, which makes a nice change from the usual henhouse bickering. When a new puppy, Loui, arrives, Runti and the girls are unsure about him, especially after he chases them, but Bodo and Lasse soon explain the rules. Whatever their temporary differences, the farm is a little family where everyone has fun. In her debut, Taylor provides warm scenarios of friendship, growing trust, and simple pleasures, such as splashing in puddles. However, she could have done more to set the scene—where is this farm, for example? Where do “barn girls” come from, what’s their job, and why aren’t there barn boys? Beauregard’s illustrations help, with palm trees and Spanish-tiled roofs that suggest Florida or California; the drawings intriguingly mix realistic draftsmanship with loosely sketched elements and the hens’ exaggerated expressions. The episodic format gives little shape to the narrative, and Runti, despite being the protagonist, doesn’t really have much to do, aside from reacting to other characters. Mariett and the dogs have more personality, making it unclear why the book isn’t centered on them.
A pleasant, if slight, look at chickens and their friends.