CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 35 . . . . May 11, 2012
A Hen for Izzy Pippik.
Aubrey Davis. Illustrated by Marie Lafrance.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 3-8.
Review by Lara LeMoal.
The street sweeper gasped. The postman laughed. The beggar smacked his lips.
“Boiled?” he asked.
“Baked,” replied the postman.
“Catch them!” the sweeper cried.
The opening spread of A Hen for Izzy Pippik shows us neither a hen, nor Izzy Pippik. Instead, on the left, we see a solitary bird pecking at seeds on the ground and a lonely girl sitting by herself on the step of her home, eyes downcast, hands folded. On the right, we catch a glimpse into the busy home. Inside, we see the figure of a man, a little boy with a cheerful blonde curl banging a pot with a wooden spoon, and a woman sewing blue fabric.
Why is this girl so pensive? Where is this hen the title refers to? Where is Izzy? The contrast of the scene before us— the quiet thoughtfulness of the young girl vs. a busy bustling home— and the hint of more to follow, is precisely why the reader wants so very much to turn the page. The tension present in the images of the first spread sets the stage for the ongoing tension between Shaina, our protagonist, and those who oppose her.
A Hen for Izzy Pippik is a strong picture book from Kids Can Press that quietly resonates with the reader. The rhythmic text, authored by Aubrey Davis, should be enjoyed aloud. Its musical quality and its sparseness are perfectly balanced by the detailed and emotional illustrations by Marie Lafrance. Based on Jewish and Islamic text, this story has a fairytale-like quality. In spite of its simplicity of plot, it communicates a complicated ethical question. Shaina finds a hen, one that does not belong to her, and the conflict that results is the driving force of the story.
The detailed images capture the reader’s attention: the billowing skirt of the mother’s dress as she sweeps, the colour palate of greens and blues, the odd dash of brilliant yellow, etc. Depictions of the market invite us to spend time picking out various recognizable items: doughnuts, legs of ham, watermelons, oranges, tomatoes, sausages, apples, grains, fish, cabbages, cucumbers and chicken—not chickens for sale, however. Shaina makes sure of that.
A subtle, but key detail, is that the hen and Shaina are drawn to resemble each other- each with an expressive tail, the hen’s being feathers, Shaina’s being a long braid. We are cued to follow the movement of these two friends by the motion in their ‘tails’- birds of a feather…
Lara LeMoal is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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