Just as the rooster crows and the nun comes to collect their eggs, four chickens fly the coop.
Masterful black-and-white, cut-paper illustrations make the chickens’ narrow escape from a small monastery vivid and their meanderings through an Alaskan forest and coastline magical. An autobiographical note in the frontmatter tell readers this “is a true story, or as close to the truth as [McClure] could ascertain from the chickens themselves, "from her time with “a small group of monastics on Spruce Island, Alaska.” She commemorates the hens’ antics in four sections, whose block-lettered headings make up the book’s only text: “GOOD MORNING, CHICKENS”; “CHICKENS RUN”; “CHICKENS ROAM”; and “CHICKENS GO HOME.” The birds bob as they bolt, their spindly legs and curled feet stretching to cover ground as the nun advances in hot pursuit. Eventually she grabs one and retreats, presumably thinking the remaining three will do what chickens do: come home to roost. Once out of blackberry brambles, however, they (one white, two black chickens) mosey through evergreens and out to a kelp-strewn beach. Assured pictures, wordless, unhurried, expansive in their double-page–spread format, perfectly capture the hush of a grove and the salty, clarifying quality of ocean air.
Immensely charming and surprisingly moving, this satisfying adventure story honors nature, freedom, and the ringing bells inside us that steer us home. (Picture book. 2-8)