Prather's Pick: "Prairie Chicken Little"

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Prairie Chicken Little book cover

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Diane Prather

Remember “Chicken Little” — the classic tale about the chicken who thought the sky was falling? This week’s picture book for kids is a retelling of that tale.

“Prairie Chicken Little” was written by Jackie Mims Hopkins and illustrated by Henry Cole. This 2013 book is published by Peachtree Publishers.

Henry Cole has illustrated more than 90 books for children. He has created the most beautiful prairie illustrations for this week’s book. Done in watercolor, ink and colored pencils, the grassland illustrations feature wildflowers, insects, buffalo and other animals. All kinds of insects, including butterflies, ladybugs, flies, grasshoppers and more (some that I can’t identify), are found on the pages, and there are other animals that the reader meets during the story.

So as the story begins, Mary McBlicken, the prairie chicken, is standing on a dirt pile, a startled expression on her face.

Mary is the cutest prairie chicken. She’s a light brown color with rows of brown feathers across her chest. Dark brown and white feathers are found on her wings and tail, and there’s a tuft of brown feathers on top of her head. It’s easy to figure out what’s going on for Mary when looking at her big yellow eyes and orange beak.

Right now, Mary is startled because as she was “scritch-scratching” for her breakfast, she heard “a rumbling, a grumbling and a tumbling” sound.

Suddenly, she decides that a stampede is coming. Mary jumps up in the air, flapping her wings. Now she’s downright horrified. Mary takes off, “lickety-splickety” for the ranch to tell Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan.

Along the way, she comes upon Jeffrey Snog (the prairie dog) who is sunning himself on top of his burrow. Jeffrey looks downright sleepy, but he comes to life when Mary tells him that a stampede is coming. Both of them take off for the ranch.

Before long Mary and Jeffrey spot Beau Grabbit (the jackrabbit) who has his eyes closed as he nibbles on a stem of grass. When Mary tells Beau that a stampede is “a comin,” Beau joins them on the way to the ranch.

Soon Mary, Jeffrey and Beau find June Spark (the meadowlark) who is building a nest. When she hears about the stampede, she joins the others. They all run off for the ranch, startling a lizard that has to get out of the way.

Pretty soon Slim Brody (the sly coyote), notices the animals running across the prairie. When he hears their story, he says he knows a shortcut to the ranch. But Slim has an ulterior motive!

So now the reader wonders — will Mary, Jeffrey, Beau and June end up as Slim’s dinner? And what about the stampede? The book ends with a surprise.

“Prairie Chicken Little” is a delightful book! It costs $15.99 in hardcover. I ordered the book through Downtown Books in Craig.

Author Jackie Mims Hopkins is a former school librarian and teacher. She’s also a storyteller. Hopkins has written several children’s books, such as “The Gold Miner’s Daughter,” “The Three Armadillies Tuff” and “The Horned Toad Prince.”

It’s no wonder that illustrator Henry Cole has created such beautiful prairie drawings. According to his brief biography, Cole loves to spend time on the prairie. He has illustrated books such as “A Nest for Celeste” and “Three Hens and a Peacock.”

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