Margaret H. Lippert, and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. (Check out a 2008 interview with Paschkis on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.) Audrey was the hungry crocodile, and I was Mrs. Chicken. We had incredible fun rehearsing and performing the story, and I've been carrying the character of Mrs. Chicken around with me ever since. I think that's part of the reason I'm so drawn to chicken books: they give me an opportunity to bring out my inner chicken.
Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile is a very fine book, independent of its tricky chicken protagonist. It is written, illustrated, and designed beautifully, and I am freshly dazzled every time I turn its pages. In this retelling of a Liberian folktale, Mrs. Chicken's narcissism leads her to stray from the safety of her bathing puddle to the superior reflecting surface of the river, where the hungry crocodile lies in wait. Crocodile snaps chicken up and drags her home to eat her up. But Mrs. Chicken quickly devises a plan to trick Crocodile (no stranger to narcissism herself) into believing they are sisters and that eating her would therefore be horribly wrong. She wins her freedom, learns her lesson, and goes on to bathe in puddles with her chicks, happily ever after. This is a lively, funny, vibrant rendition of this traditional tale, short enough to share with very young children, but engaging enough (on so many levels) for story lovers of all ages.