Monday, May 2, 2011

Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken

written by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Henry Bliss
read by Barbara Rosenblat

Have you ever been sitting at home thinking….. If I don’t get out of here, I’m going to go crazy.  Have you ever imagined that a chicken would be feeling that way?  Well, that is exactly how Louise is feeling in Kate DiCamillo’s book Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken.
Yes, Louise is looking for adventure, but I would venture to say she likes extreme adventure.  In chapter one Louise decides to  ventures out to sea.  As she is standing on the deck, letting the wind “ruffle her feathers” she decides this adventure is not what she had imagined.  However, she can’t exactly change her plans because pirates are coming and she is almost fricasseed.  After this experience I think she is feeling like “there is no place like home.”  She made it home and “slept the deep and dreamless  sleep of the true adventurer.”
Again adventure calls and Louise joins the circus, walks a high wire, only to have a close encounter with a lion.  The family farm sounds good once again and Louise “slept the deep and dreamless sleep of the true adventurer.”  Louise continued to long for adventure.  In chapter three she heads East and visits a fortune-teller.  She is kidnapped and held captive with other chickens.  “Chickens do not belong in cages,” and Louise set them free.  Louise began to miss her sister hens and her henhouse, so she went back home.  In chapter four, Louise shares her adventures with her the other hens.  In the end, all of the chickens “slept the deep and dreamless and peaceful sleep of true adventurers.”
Harry Bliss’ illustrations are beautiful.  Each spread shows Louise’s bright white feathers and red cockscomb standing up straight.  The reader’s eye is drawn to her right away.  There are two pages in this book which remind me of the fold out spread in The Man who Walked between the Towers.  This is an oversized book and there are two vertical spreads that show Louise walking the high wire with the perspective from the audience on the crowd.  When you turn the page it shows the perspective of Louise falling down toward the lion’s mouth.  I found Louise’s placement on each page to be interesting.  She is often on the left side of the page suggesting that she is more secure and possibly confined.  Bliss does a nice job with distance.  There are times when Louise is quite large and the center of our attention.  We are drawn in to her feelings of wanting adventure.  There are also times when Louise is quite far away and we are distanced from the action, such as when she is walking the high wire. 
Barbara Rosenblat’s magnificent performance transforms this beautifully written story.  She is able to adjust her voice brilliantly for each character; from Louise and Monique to the pirates, the circus characters, and the fortuneteller.  There is background music and noises that add to this listening experience.  I felt like I was listening to a movie.  This read aloud version with accurate sound effects was most deserving of the Odyssey Award.
This book is seamless.  The writing, illustrations, and read aloud work masterfully together.  People young and old can appreciate this for what it is, a good story.

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