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The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County

Last updated Monday, June 9, 2008

Author: Janice N. Harrington
Illustrator: Shelley Jackson
Date of Publication: 2007
ISBN: 0374312516
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2008

Synopsis: From "I'm the Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County," announces a young African American girl. Gray-haired Big Mama warns her to leave the birds alone, but the girl can't restrain herself: the chase is too much fun, and the elusive Miss Hen is her ultimate prize. When the girl finally manages to sneak up on Miss Hen in the grass, she discovers her prize surrounded by chicks, and the girl instantly reforms: "I know you're a mama now . . . . I won't trouble your babies." Both words and pictures elevate a simple story about a girl's sly barnyard game into a rollicking, well-told delight. The words are both colloquial and poetic, and Harrington perfectly balances the tense strategizing and stalking as well as the gentle caring that follows. Jackson's exceptional collages of cut paper, fabric, and paint magnify both the feather-flying action and the characters' emotions, including the loving bond between the girl and Big Mama. Kids will easily feel the irresistible allure of a subversive game as well as the deep bond with an animal friend. A first-rate read-aloud.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is in the girl’s hair? (Chicken feathers)
•  Have you ever seen a chicken? Did you chase it or did it chase you?
•  What do you get from chickens? (Meat and eggs)
•  What came first, the chicken or the egg?
•  Look at the back cover, who do you think will win? The girl or the hen?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you think the chickens like being chased? Do you like being chased?
•  What is a hen? (Is a female chicken–rooster is the male chicken)
•  What is molasses?
•  What else are chickens afraid of? (Snakes, weasels, the girl)
•  Is it nice to chase animals? Why or why not?
•  Why did the girl not grab the hen when she found her?
•  Was the girl brave for not grabbing the hen?
•  Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something you shouldn’t? Isn’t that courageous?
•  Superheros help others and villains help themselves. At the end, is the girl a superhero or a villain? Remember she protects the chickens from the snakes and weasels and then will be teaching the chickens how to run to protect themselves.

Craft ideas:
•  Bring ahead option: Bring scraps of fabric or magazines for the kids to cut out pieces and make a picture modeled after the illustrations in the book.
•  Have them draw a picture of the girl or themselves doing something they enjoy or that they shouldn’t be doing.
•  Make a superhero costume–a mask for the face, a belt, wristbands or headband.

Special activities:
•  Do the chicken dance.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!