Volume II Number 1
October 20, 1995

image 8 O'Cluck.

Jill Creighton. Illustrated by Pierre-Paul Pariseau.
Richmond Hill, ON: Scholastic Canada Ltd., 1995. 30pp, paper, $5.99.
(Issued in French as L'heure des poules!)
ISBN 0-591-24-439-6.

Kindergarten - grade 5 / Ages 5 - 10.
Review by A. Edwardsson.


Mr. Wolf moved into the empty house beside the chicken coop. "Right next door to dinner," he chuckled, rubbing his paws together. He put on his speckled tie, his feather-patterned waistcoat, his egg brooch and his chicken watch. Then he went next door to introduce himself to the hens.

image Author Jill Creighton (The Weaver's Horse) has turned a popular children's game of chase into an unusual picture-book. At "one o'cluck," Mr. Wolf invites his chicken neighbours to join him for dinner at eight. He spends the rest of the day preparing for his fowl supper, and watching the mysterious activities next door. For example: "The chickens were all inside the henhouse, gathered round the telephone. One chicken poked her head out. `What time is it, Mr. Wolf?' she called. `Six o'cluck,' he answered, staring at her fat belly. She slammed the door. `Rude' he murmured, 'but pleasingly plump!'"

Seven times the chickens ask the question and are told the correct hour. However, at eight, Mr. Wolf creeps over to the henhouse and his response is "DINNER TIME!" The clever fowl are prepared and soon they have Mr. Wolf trussed up in a van and on his way to Howling Pines Wolf Sanctuary. The chickens sit down to a celebration feast at his dinner table.


The premise is amusing but the text and accompanying pictures are more than a little dark and disjointed. For this book, Pierre-Paul Pariseau has used a cut-and-paste technique called photomontage. According to the promotional info, his surreal artwork combines photographs from magazines, brochures, and catalogues that he had lying around the house.

The illustrations are fascinating, but many of the absurd touches come across as disturbing. Most of the animals have "altered" body parts. There are chickens with human eyeballs and a pig with lips, and the fully clothed hens and Mr. Wolf have gloved human hands. And when eight o'cluck arrives, Mr. Wolf strips off his finery and is truly menacing: "His claws were itching as he sneaked towards the chicken coop and slithered through the gate. His teeth were glistening as he pushed open the door of the henhouse with his chilly black nose."


The anthropomorphic chickens truss up Mr. Wolf, and then "Everyone jostled him into the crate, slammed it shut, and snapped on the two big padlocks." We see the chickens holding an oversized lock and key. Above their head, "HA HA HA" is spelled out with letter blocks in ransom-note style -- "The chickens fell to the ground, giggling hilariously. At last with tears running down their beaks, they got up and went next door." Although the text tells us about the chickens' hilarity, or that they are "smiling sweetly," or that "they all giggled, the way chickens do," the chickens illustrated are always dour and dry-eyed, with no smiles to be seen.

But the illustrations also have less macabre, comic touches that would appeal to a child's sense of the absurd, like the chicken watch, the over-sized cutlery, and the sunflowers growing in the trees. "Real" water sloshes in Mr. Wolf's pail, and in the kitchen he juggles vegetables and salt- and pepper-shakers.

The text is clear, and the illustrations spread across two pages. Unfortunately, some of the pictures are warped by the fold.

Fans of Jon Scieszka would appreciate 8 O'Cluck, and older children might enjoy the detailed artwork, but otherwise it's an optional purchase.

A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She has a Bachelor of Education degree and a Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors' Association.

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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