Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reach! Little Chick: Three Stories by Amy Hest

Soon it would be night. High in the sky the first star popped up bright and beautiful

Little Chick stood on the step. "Reach for the sky," she sang.

She stretched and stretched, trying to catch her star.

"Good evening, Old-Auntie," Little Chick whispered. "I need to catch my star! I want to put it in my pocket!"

Little Chick's reach seems always beyond her grasp in Amy Hest's charming new picture book Little Chick (Candlewick, 2009). In the first of three vignettes starring Little Chick and her ever-patient Old-Auntie, "The Carrot That Would Not Grow," Little Chick diligently plants her carrot seed and waits patiently until the little feathery carrot top pushes up through the soil. But then her eagerness overcomes her patience. She pulls the little carrot up and is very disappointed to see how tiny the little orange root still is. But Old-Auntie consoles the impetuous little gardener with a snuggle, "Tall carrots are certainly nice," she whispers, "but sometimes small carrots are just what you need."

In the second tale, "The Kite That Would Not Fly," Little Chick skips her very best, trying to get her little leaf kite to sail up into the sky, only to watch it fall back to the grass over and over. Old-Auntie quickly senses her frustration. She bends down and kisses Little Chick and commiserates, "Sometimes a kite will fly, and sometimes it simply won't." But then she takes Little Chick by the wing and leads her up a big hill, where Little Chick's best skipping amazingly lifts the kite high above the windy summit.

But now the day is almost over, and even standing on top of patient Old-Auntie's head and stretching her best, the bright twinkly evening star remains far, far away.

"You're a very good stretcher," said Old-Auntie.

"Yes," agreed Little Chick. "I am a good stretcher." She stretched higher and higher still. She couldn't catch the star. Her pocket was empty. Little Chick was sad.

"I wanted my star," she said.

"It is such a lovely star," observed Old-Auntie. "I love how it sparkles. I'm afraid the sky just wouldn't be the same without your star."

"Yes," said Little Chick. "It would be dull."

Amy Hest's simple story catches the enthusiasm and sweet naivete' of the very young perfectly, and Anita Jeram's soft watercolor washed illustrations delightfully capture Little Chick's gangling energy and Old-Auntie's fulsome feathered wisdom set against a landscape of soft new spring flowers. For those who have loved her expressive artwork in Sam McBratney's Guess How Much I Love You series, these three gentle and endearing stories of the relationship of a youngster and an older relative offer much of the same tenderness to cherish.



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