By Béatrice Rodriguez
(Enchanted Lion Books, 2010)
First, a quirky aside. This book was originally released by a French publisher in 2005. As it’s a wordless book (save for the title, an easily translatable Le voleur de poule), it amuses me that this is now an “American Edition.” At any rate, I am so glad this tale made it across the Atlantic.
The story begins with an enchanted little cottage in a wooded area. Rabbit greets the day by opening the shutters, Bear steps out for a yawn and Rooster prides himself on a fine “cock-a-doodle-doo”. Yes, it’s a day like any other.
But, if you look closely, something evil lurks, a fox in the bushes. In a flash, he nabs a startled chicken and dashes off. Yummy porridge must wait. Rabbit, Bear and Rooster are in hot pursuit.
As darkness falls, the would-be rescuers are exhausted and distraught. Fox sleeps in a tree, cradling the confiscated chicken in his paws.
What’s that you say? Foxes don’t climb trees?! Just go with it.
Come morning, the chase resumes. And the story becomes sillier as we see Fox and Chicken playing chess in an underground labyrinth. The double-page spread at nightfall is precious, with Fox and Chicken resting in the glow of a fire in the foxhole while the other animals keep vigil by a campfire above.
And, like the Roadrunner-Coyote cartoons, daylight restarts the search. The hunt eventually leads to a surprise ending, at least to Rabbit, Bear and Rooster. This madcap delight serves as a reminder that things aren’t always what they seem. In fairy tales, the fox, like the wolf, has been much maligned. Unfairly so, according to the talented Madame Rodriguez.
Do whatever you have to in order to snatch a copy of The Chicken Thief. You’ll “read” this wordless wonder over and over, smiling every time.