Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Bok! Busy Chickens, by John Schindel and Steven Holt

Given my well established chickenophile status, it is no surprise that I have fallen hard for a board book called Busy Chickens. I am entirely smitten. Author John Schindel describes these "busy, busy chickens" in rhyming couplets that use evocative action words like "grooming" and "zooming," "peaking" and "sneaking," and "sniffing" and "squishing." These fun descriptions give the chickens in the book character and agency without anthropomorphizing them and taking away their chicken-ness.

The text is paired with some of the most beautiful, effective chicken photography I've seen. Steven Holt's subjects are magnificent and incredibly varied. From multi-colored fluffy chicks, to exquisite traditional-looking hens and roosters, to birds with such outlandish plumage you can hardly believe they were not conceived of by Jim Henson. Holt photographs them doing the things chicken do, often capturing them in motion. And these chickens are remarkably in motion! No over-crowded coops in this book.

The book design is also very strong. The gorgeous, close-up photos bleed off each page. The minimal text is printed in a thick, strong font with playful angles and dots over the i's that look like chicken beaks! The font changes color to complement the background and keep the words easy to read, and occasional visual elements in the typography reflect the action described on the page - a slightly larger "w" in "squawking," the word "leaping" placed higher on the page than the preceding word "chicken."

Busy Chickens is one of a series called Busy Books from Tricycle Press, all by John Schindel. Busy Penguins is next on my list. While I'm confident that the other titles in the series are also excellent, something tells me none of them will capture my heart quite like Busy Chickens.