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The Rooster’s Gift

by Pam Conrad, Eric Beddows, illus.

With general interest in barnyard life newly whetted by the film Babe, many a child will take the story of Young Rooster to heart. The pictures by Eric Beddows, the popular illustrator of the Zoom trilogy, reflect a colour pallette gloriously evocative of children’s books of the ’30s and ’40s: the earth is a rich proletarian red, the sky glorious indigo, the dawn streaked with corals and ochres. The farmer and his wife also harken back to the childhood reading of parents and grandparents. The genre is metaphysical poultry: Pam Conrad retells the old tale of the rooster who foolishly believes he makes the sun come up. Behind this fable of the henhouse lie echoes of Chaucer’s Chanticleer; the relationship of Rooster and Smallest Hen, however, is ostensibly platonic – they are, after all, sister and brother, hatched out of the first clutch of eggs in the new coop.

Conrad, the author of many fine books for children including The Tub People and the novel Stonewords, tells her story with care, grace, and an evident love of language. Young Rooster rises to his task “Very, very, very late, past late to something else” and doesn’t crow “Cock-a-doodle-do,” but instead a more onomatopoeically correct “Cot Cot Cot Cot Ca-toodle TOOOOO!” In the rising of the sun Conrad evokes the daily miracle of the egg; her sparing use of repetition reflects barnyard routines. Some oddities have been left behind in editing: Young Rooster becomes Rooster and then Old Rooster with the turn of a page and without the apparent passage of much time. Occasionally a phrase may sound more ponderous than wondrous, as when Rooster’s gift makes him feel “lifted up, charged, holy.” And while the sweetness of the bond between the two fowls is restored with Rooster’s insight into his real place in the scheme of things, some parents may find the pumping up of his pride by the adoring, self-deprecating Smallest Hen just a little too retro, despite the wryness of Conrad’s gentle prose.


Reviewer: Maureen Garvie

Publisher: Groundwood


Price: $15.95

Page Count: 40 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-88899-273-4

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 1996-7

Categories: Picture Books

Age Range: ages 4–8