Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chick Lit

To celebrate my tenth year of keeping chickens, I’m reviewing four books related to gallus domesticus.  The first two titles focus on the basics of becoming a chicken wrangler; the second two titles are more playful.

As urban flocks and small chicken holdings become more popular, the market for chick lit has greatly expanded.  Instead of technically proper but emotionally sterile writing and presentation, readers of chick lit now demand brightly colored covers, photographs, drawings, pretty graphics and interesting prose.  The front cover of Chick Days features nine chickens in different poses while the back shows five photographs of one chicken from hatchling to laying hen.  Instead of a standard table of contents in outline form, Chick Days has twelve eggs of various hues, each containing the chapter title and page information.  Every set of pages in the book has a color photo, graphic, table or chart similar to glossy magazines, but don’t think the content suffers.  The book manages to present the information necessary to decide which chickens to raise, where to house them, how to feed them and keep them alive.  Three appendices provide a breed chart, details on chicken health and a list of resources.  The stories of Honey, Tilda and Ameila, the hens making up the photographer’s first flock, personalize the text.

Robert and Hannah Litt’s A Chicken in Every Yard is more text heavy than Chick Days.  It’s a longer book with fewer illustrations and photographs, but the pictures are used to good effect.  The contents follow the same pattern as Chick Days; why raise chickens, which breed is best for your situation, how to plan, prepare and then enjoy your flock and keep it healthy followed by a list of chicken resources.  The Litts offer a few more recipes including flan, Sunday morning crepes and perfect poached eggs.  While an average reader might be satisfied to stop reading after Chick Days, a true chick lit fan will devour A Chicken in Every Yard and be searching for more titles.

It’s probably a stretch to include Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop as true chick lit since only one chapter deals directly with fowl, but the book is way too much fun to skip or ignore.  In March it won the Diagram Prize from the trade magazine The Bookseller for year's oddest book title.  Author Reginald Bakeley’s tongue-in-cheek style in very proper British form kept me smiling as I read: “Chickens Yes!  Goblins No!  If you believe your hen cottage may be infested with malicious, uncouth goblins, Reginald Bakeley would like to know about it.  He requests your photographs of suspected goblin hens, roosters, chicks and eggs.  For further instructions, visit www.goblinproofing.com.”  I wonder if he knows anything about mice masquerading as goblins.

 The tiny drawings by Lauren Scheuer scattered throughout her book Once Upon a Flock are irresistible to me.  Her illustrations are reminiscent of the Garth Williams’ sketches from the beloved Little House series I’m now reading with my granddaughter.  Scheuer includes actual photographs, too, but irregularly framed and edged as if the pictures were cut out and pasted in a scrapbook.  This is not to slight the prose, which is equally appealing.   Scheuer’s chickens may be anthropomorphized, yet consider that this writing style has sold lots of books recently.  Think of Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie mystery series, nonfiction titles like Marley and Me or the fictional The Art of Racing in the RainOnce Upon a Flock is classified as nonfiction; can you believe the flyleaf says “Lauren discovers that love, loss, passion, and resilience are not only parts of the human experience, but of the chicken experience as well.”  Read some chick lit and become a believer!
~ Michelle, Adult Services

Chick Days: an Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatchlings to Laying Hens by Jenna Woginrich with photography by Mars Vilaubi. 2010. (636.5 WOG)

A Chicken in Every Yard: The Urban Farm Store’s Guide to Chicken Keeping by Robert and Hannah Litt.  2011. (636.5 LIT)

Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop and Other Practical Advice in our Campaign against the Fairy Kingdom by Reginald Bakeley. 2012. (818.602 BAK)

Once upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens by Lauren Scheuer. 2013. (636.5092 SCH)

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