Little Chicken’s Big Day

I hear you cluckin', Big Chicken!” That's the simple refrain that Little Chicken repeats to his mama throughout a typical day. But Little Chicken can be distractable . . . and when he wanders off and gets lost, the day becomes anything but typical. With subtlety and humor, this sweet little story sweeps through a wide range emotions using the simplest of language.

From husband and wife team Katie and Jerry Davis, this is a little book with a huge heart. The perfectly minimal illustrations and spare text belie the enormous message at its core: that with family, help is always just a cluck away.

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A close-up of a neon-yellow chick beckons from the bright-blue front cover. On the first page a very large, handlike wing pushes open the door to reveal sleepy Little Chicken. Then it comes: “Rise ’n’ shine!” Ominously, Big (mama) Chicken continues to bellow out exclamatory commands to her tiny chick. The usual parent-given directives are issued at a rapid pace: “Wash your face! Brush your teeth! Get dressed! Finish your food!” Little Chicken looks up and answers, deadpan, “I hear you cluckin’, Big Chicken.” Off they go, with Little Chicken scampering in untied red sneakers while Big Chicken briskly marches forth in red heels and white handbag with orders to “Follow me!” and “Stay close!” But Little Chicken becomes mesmerized by a teeny purple butterfly and loses track of mama. Even as he begins to quake, Big Chicken appears on the next spread, melodiously clucking her child’s name. Once reunited, the pair happily heads home. The Davis team boldly plays with the use of white space (or sometimes blue or green) and strong black lines to propel the visual storytelling. Proportions and angles change as the story progresses to reflect Little Chicken’s understanding and appreciation of his mother’s watchful words. Be sure to share with willful toddlers and rambunctious preschoolers—they will easily relate to Little Chicken.-Kirkus Review

School Library Journal/A Fuse8 Production Review

Are there any picture book catchphrases that have entered the cultural lexicon? I’m serious in asking this, but I’m a poor judge of what everyone knows. When you spend your days reading lines like “He was a big FAT caterpillar” aloud and then find yourself working those phrases into your everyday speech, you’re not exactly the best average consumer. Still, even I know that when you look at the great picture book classics, they may be great books but you don’t hear words or phrases from them showing up in late night talk show opening monologues or anything. Leno isn’t throwing out a “Let me drive the bus!” reference and Conan isn’t bringing up Madeline’s line to the tiger in the zoo. The closest I can come up with might be Goodnight Moon and its lulling lines. If a comedian starts saying, “Good night” in a variety in different ways, folks know what they mean. Otherwise, there’s not much. Maybe Little Chicken’s Big Day  will change all that. Because when it comes to memorable lines, I suspect Katie and Jerry Davis are going to go down in history for inspiring a whole generation of kids to chirp cheerily to their parents, “I hear you clucking, Big Chicken”.

It’s early in the morning and it’s time for Little Chicken to get dressed, wash his face, and get ready for the day. Each time his mother tells him these things he comes back with a prompt, “I hear you cluckin’, Big Chicken.” Then it’s off to have some fun. Yet while following his mother Little Chicken gets pretty distracted. A lovely butterfly catches his eye and next thing he knows he’s alone. Fortunately, mama’s not far away calling his name, to which he replies (all together now) “I hear you cluckin’, Big Chicken.” Then home and bed and when her baby whispers, “I love you, Mama” it meets a gentle “I hear you cluckin’, Little Chicken.”

The given story behind the book’s creation is that co-author Jerry Davis worked or knew a fellow employee who, when asked to do anything by his boss, would reply “I hear you cluckin’, Big Chicken.” It really was a natural fit for the picture book format, though of course the tone is entirely different. In the original format it was a snarky line. Here it does have a bit of cheek to it at first, but as it goes each version of it has a different meaning. Cheeky first. Bothered next. Overjoyed the third time. Loving at last. On a personal level I appreciated the fact that they removed the “g” in the word “clucking” too. The story itself is really just there to hang on the already existing phrase. We’ve loads of stories for kids about getting separated from a parent and finding them again, but they kind of blur together after a while. What sets this apart is the catchphrase. Right there, you have something different. Something new. Something, dare I say, memorable.

Davis employs a simple thick black lined style. Lots of vibrant primary colors (your reds, your yellows, your blues). Lots of white space as well. The chickens are amusingly rendered with sticklike little legs. I had a special appreciation for mama chicken’s high-heeled shoes, looking like nothing so much as those old Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck oversized feminine footwear more than anything else. The style is ideal for those kids that still need big contrasting elements to capture and sustain their interest.

Like I say, it’s covering a lot of ground that we’ve seen before. When that happens, you need something different there to set it apart from the crowd. Enter: Catchphrase. The rest of it’s cute enough, but it’s that singular line that’s going to find a comfy corner of your brain to occupy and live in. Touching on fears most children can identify with, Davis & Davis find their hook and run with it. A gentle, fun little story that lingers. Lingers loud and proud. A fun one.