free range pickins: eggstra-large, grade A egg picture books!

Good morning my little chickadees!

Guess what’s for breakfast? A dozen good eggs that are worth peeping into. Just for your dining pleasure, I’ve gathered up some of my favorite eggy picture books. Not an easy task, mind you, with so many good ones in the hen house.

Before I get to the even dozen, a word about the cute miniature boxed set pictured above, Demi’s Dozen Good Eggs. Each of the twelve egg-shaped books features a different baby animal, and they are sized proportionately: the biggest book is the baby protoceratops, then ostrich, flamingo, crocodile, platypus, on down to baby anteater, painted turtle, snake, duck, chick, parrot, and finally, hummingbird. Each book contains a simple story about the featured animal, with pen and ink drawings. (A nice choice for the novelty book collector.)

TODAY’S BREAKFAST MENU (all books suitable for children ages 4-8 and peckish adults):

1. The Surprise Visitor by Juli Kangas (Dial, 2005). A charming story about a mouse named Edgar Small, who tries fo find a home for the lovely blue egg which has rolled up to his doorstep. Endearing woodland animals deny parentage, but help Edgar tend to the “roundish thing” by adding personal touches. Reassuring and absolutely adorable.

2. The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington, pictures by Shelley Jackson (FSG, 2007). Definitely one of my top three favorite picture books from last year. Great reviews from Jules of 7-Imp and Fuse #8, for this Cybils 2007 winner. The paint and mixed media illustrations have to be seen to be believed, and the girl narrator’s voice is real real real. Outstanding!

3. Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco (Philomel, 1988). A timeless classic about Babushka, who paints marvelous eggs for the Easter festival, and Rechenka, the injured goose that she rescues. The newfound friends gently build bridges of understanding with a miracle or two thrown in. A Reading Rainbow Selection featuring the intricate designs of Ukranian egg painting, which can be enjoyed year round.

4. An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston, pictures by Sylvia Long (Chronicle Books, 2006). A sublime nonfiction picture book that is suitable for older kids, too. It celebrates the beauty, diversity and wonder of a large variety of eggs, from hummingbirds to dinosaurs to gulls to vultures. Beautiful watercolor paintings. Kris Bordessa writes about illustrator Sylvia Long here.

5. Chicks and Chickens by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 2003). Another nonfiction picture book featuring a healthy serving of facts and diagrams about chickens and people interacting with them. Learn about the life cycle from egg to embryo to hatchling to adult, as well as different breeds of roosters.

6. Big Chickens by Leslie Helakoski, pictures by Henry Cole (Dutton, 2006). Time to crack up in this giggly tale about four chickens who fly the coop when a wolf comes calling. They are terrified by everything they encounter, until they stumble upon the threat in his own “back yard.” Rhyme and repetition make this a great read aloud.

7. Henri, Egg Artiste by Marcus Pfister (North-South Books, 2007). Henri becomes tired of decorating eggs in the same old way and becomes inspired by some of the great masters, including Monet, Van Gogh and Da Vinci. Not just an Easter book!

8. The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow (Floris Books, 2007). I’m cheating a little here, because the egg in the title is really an orange, but I had to include this wonderful Swedish fantasy about a woodland fairy who finds what she thinks is a “sun egg.” A lovely adventure ensues with all her tiny friends. The illustrations are worth the price of the book alone, and will make you want to become tiny, too.

9. My Life as a Chicken by Ellen A. Kelley, pictures by Michael H. Slack (Harcourt, 2007). Follow the perilous adventures of Pauline Poulet, who flees the hen house when the farmer starts looking at chicken recipes. She encounters a fox, a pirate, and a typhoon in this rawkous, squawking frolic just this side of crazy feathers. Great rhythm, rhyme, and energy keep this tale a-sizzle in the frying pan.

10., 11., and 12. SEUSS SCRAMBLE: Horton Hatches the Egg (1940), Scrambled Eggs Super (1953), and Green Eggs and Ham (1960), all published by Random House. Nobody can crack an egg like Dr. Seuss. You’re probably familiar with Horton’s undying loyalty while sitting on lazy Mayzie’s egg, and Sam-I-am’s enthusiasm for green eggs and ham (4th bestselling children’s book ever). In Scrambled Eggs Super, Peter T. Hooper decides it’s time to put a stop to boring, plain old scrambled chicken eggs. He searches far and wide for some wacky, exotic animal eggs — like the Single-File Zummzian Zuks, who stroll through the mountains with eggs on their thumbs! Endlessly zany and satisfying.

BONUS BOOK: When Chickens Grow Teeth, a French tale from Guy de Maupassant retold by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Orchard Books, 1996). Oo la la la la! Big, brawny Antoine, cafe keeper and lover of cream puffs, is bedridden after falling from a ladder, and is forced by his shrewish wife to hatch chicken eggs under his arms. A tender story with gorgeously detailed ink and watercolor illos, brimming with the warm, rustic flavor of the French countryside. Bon Appetit!

What are your favorite egg books?

“I did toy with the idea of doing a cookbook. The recipes were to be the routine ones: how to make dry toast, instant coffee, hearts of lettuce and brownies. But as an added attraction, at no extra charge, my idea was to put a fried egg on the cover. I think a lot of people who hate literature but love fried eggs would buy it if the price was right.”  ~ Groucho Marx

10 thoughts on “free range pickins: eggstra-large, grade A egg picture books!

  1. Creative types like to mix things around . . .
    and of course, I like peppers, onions and mushrooms mixed in as well…and maybe some cheese, a little ham…hash browns on the side…


  2. Oooh, that miniature boxed set is so sweet!!
    I am mortified to say that I have not read many of the books on your Breakfast Menu but, on the other hand, that could be construed as a good thing because now I get to look forward to reading them all. Just for the record, I don’t like scrambled eggs. And my favourite egg book? I would have to say Mr. Popper’s Penguins.


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