BOOKS: Slapstick humor makes 'The Chicken Squad' entertaining
What happens when you put four little chicks in charge of solving a backyard mystery?
"The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure," by Doreen Cronin, begins when Tail (a squirrel) comes barreling into the chicken coop, scared to death of something "big and scary" in the backyard.
Two of the chicks, Sugar and Dirt, help him with description. The scary thing is not a rhombus. It's not a triangle. But when Dirt draws a circle, Tail faints.
Either he's afraid of the birdbath, the blow-up pool...or something worse. As Tail regains consciousness, he remembers more details. The circle is shiny, it gives off weird hissing noises, and it "interrupts the atmosphere."
Sugar determines the only possibility. The round shiny object is a UFO!
At this point, the Chicken Squad panics, certain that aliens are going to grab Moosh, their mother. But never fear, the Chicken Squad plans for attack. They gather grass clippings, rocks, string, a tank of helium, and an orange balloon.
Unbelievable? Then you don't know chickens!
"The Chicken Squad" is full of slapstick, wrong turns, red herrings, and misunderstandings. Most readers are going to figure out the truth about the shiny circle long before the chicks, making the slapstick humor even funnier.
The book also features another character -- JJ, the retired search-and-rescue dog.
He operates as the narrator, talking to the readers at the beginning and occasionally stepping into the story to sort out the mishaps.
The only drawback is that the multiple characters are difficult to keep straight. This is complicated by an introduction that gives "real names" to the chicks as well.
However, the story itself is a winner, funnier with each re-reading.
If the name Doreen Cronin sounds familiar, you're right. She's the author of the best-selling picture book, "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type."
"The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure." By Doreen Cronin. Atheneum, 2014. 112 pp.