Prather’s Pick: ‘The Chicken Problem’ helps kids learn math
January 2, 2018
This week's column features yet another picture book for children. I brought it home from the library with a big batch of books, and I'm afraid if I take it back without reviewing it, I'll never find it again. The book can be used in teaching children about math, so I think educators and parents would be able to use it. Besides, the book is downright funny.
"The Chicken Problem" was written by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson and was published by Random House Children's Books, which publishes a variety of books that can be used as teaching tools.
The main characters of the story are Peg, a young girl who loves solving problems and eating pie, and a purple cat with big eyes and a tail with a big "poof" at its end. The cat is known simply as "Cat." He likes to solve problems and eat pie, too.
The story takes place on a farm, where Peg and Cat are getting ready to sit down for a picnic. They have a blanket all set up with four pieces of pie lined up, from large to small. The largest piece is for Peg, a smaller piece for a pink pig, and an even smaller piece for Cat. There is one piece of pie left, a tiny piece. That's a problem, because nobody wants to eat it.
What to do? Cat solves the problem.
Just behind the picnic blanket, there's a small coop full of chickens — really full of chickens. (The reader is soon to discover just how many chickens the coop holds.) So, Cat opens the coop door and takes out a chicken. Now, there's an animal to eat the tiny piece of pie. Problem solved.
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However, Peg senses that something isn't right. Boy, are her senses correct. One hundred chickens are running wild. It seems that Cat left the coop door open. (I told you that the coop was full of chickens.) Chickens are running, leaping, hopping, doing the chicken dance, standing on their heads and most anything else you can guess chickens might do. The illustrations are wonderful.
Another problem to solve! First, Peg, Pig and Cat start picking up chickens, and they sing a clever little song as they carry chickens back to the coop. But picking up chickens three or four at a time doesn't make a dent in the 100 that have to go back in the coop. The chickens don't cooperate, no matter what Peg and her friends try. The chickens are having too much fun. Peg freaks out.
Will readers attempt to count all the chickens to see if there are 100? An illustration of a tree completely filled with chickens is the funniest ever.
Readers can also follow the math problems at the bottom corner of each page.
The book's authors are both Emmy winners for writing and directing. On an acknowledgment page, the authors thank the 100 chickens that posed for the pictures. Included in the list are Barawk Obama, Michele Squakmann, Lady Cawcaw, Mellow Yellow, Little Red Riding Chicken and 95 others. (Adult readers enjoy picture books, too.)
"The Chicken Problem" costs $16.99 in hardcover, or you can find it in the children's room at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.