“Punny is the order of the day in this egg-cellent book about a not-so-chicken Lily.”
When quiet, careful Lily discovers she’s expected to participate in a poetry jam at school, she’s terrified. But with the encouragement of her friends and through her own determination, she discovers poems are like puzzles and something she can figure out. Chicken Lily the book mirrors Chicken Lily the character: it mostly plays it safe but provides genuine pleasure to others when it stretches to do something unique and original. With a fairly simple topic, a predictable storyline, and pleasant illustrations, it would be well on its way to becoming nothing more than a good option to bring out occasionally for discussions about overcoming fears. However, by trying something a little new, the book becomes more noteworthy: it shines when it comes to clever puns. These witty inclusions—from Lily’s friends’ fitting lunch selections (Baabette the sheep is, of course, having shepherd’s pie, while Pigsley opts for a sloppy joe), to the inclusion of a bouquet of carrots on Mrs. Lop’s desk, to Lily’s to-do list with various cultural poultry references—add pizzazz and a layer of humor that older readers will enjoy as much as younger. Astute observers will notice that Lily does not actually overcome her fear of participating in the poetry slam; rather, despite her fear, she perseveres through sheer willpower. They’ll also see Lily’s growth cleverly demonstrated throughout the story, not just through the text, but also through the illustrations, where Lily moves from a 24 to a 500 piece puzzle and loses her training wheels by the end of the book!
Chicken Lily may be a lot of things—a careful colorer, a patient puzzler, and a quiet hide-and-seeker (she never made a peep!)—but brave has never been one of them. That’s why, when a school-wide poetry jam is announced in class, Lily is terrified. Will she sound like a bird brain?
Although Lily’s friends Baabette and Pigsley try to encourage her, Lily feels like a rotten egg. Finally, Lily realizes that she must put her best claw forward and prove that even chickens aren’t chicken all the time.
Lily is nervous about a lot of things, but by the end of the book she has developed the courage to participate even though it scares her. Are there things that you are scared of? How can you use Lily’s example to conquer your fears?
A poetry slam is the order of the day in Chicken Lily. Take time to learn a little bit about poetry. Lily uses rhymes to create her poem, as do her classmates. Consider writing your own poem, or simply playing a rhyming game!
Sometimes it’s hard to break out of our comfort zone as Lily the chicken knows all too well. This is a great book about good friends and being brave.
I love this story about this cute chicken. She is a chicken in every sense of the word. Her friends try to help her be brave. Eventually she finds a way to overcome some of her fear and impresses everyone.
Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children’s book author of more than 70 books and over 350 stories and articles. Recent picture book releases include If Wendell Had a Walrus (Henry Holt), Chicken Lily, (Henry Holt), Mousequerade Ball (Bloomsbury) illustrated by New York Times bestselling illustrator Betsy Lewin, and Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range (Clarion, 2016) a sequel to Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg, one of Amazon’s Best Picture Books of 2013.
When she’s not letting her cat in, or out, or in, she’s tapping away at her computer, conjuring, coaxing, and prodding her latest stories to life. Today, she lives in Northern California with her family and their mega-fluffy cat, Max.
Nina is the illustrator of Chicken Lily, as well as the author and/or illustrator of several other children’s books. She currently lives in Minnesota with her kids, pugs, guinea pig, bunny, and fish and enjoys drinking tea and doing some occasional knitting.
Where did the idea for Chicken Lily come from?
Interestingly, Lily started out as a girl who was afraid of going swimming. However, as I went pressed ahead, my enthusiasm for it waned. A little too serious. A little too dire. I wasn’t enjoying it. Then, it hit me. I love humorous picture books. Why not write about . . . a chicken chicken? I ditched the entire manuscript, except the title, Chicken Lily. With an “egg-citing” chicken in mind, the story took off. It was a lot of fun to imagine this chicken chicken, pack it full of puns, and find out how she was going to face her Grand Slam Poetry Jam problem and come out on top.
What do you hope children most enjoy about Lily?
I hope they’ll love the puns. I hope they’ll love careful colorer, patient puzzler, quiet-hide-and-seeker Chicken Lily. I hope they’ll realize that we’re all afraid of something—and it’s all right. We’re better and stronger than we know. We can conquer our fears and discover something new—that we can do it.
Are there any fun little details in Chicken Lily’s illustrations little readers should watch for?
Lily has a little ladybug friend that is fun to find in all the pictures. William the goat can be spotted eating things he isn’t supposed to be eating (i.e. the apple on Mrs. Lop’s desk). Shelley and Bonnie are besties. Lily’s favorite activity is bowling.
What references did you use (if any) when creating Lily and her animal friends?
My original thought was to make Lily a little blue hen because she seemed so blue all the time. My editor suggested yellow, which ended up being absolutely perfect. Lily, Pigsley, Baabette, and Mrs. Lop were the only characters in the manuscript. It was fun to be able to add other kids to the story (including Lori Mortensen’s fluffy cat, Max, as one of Lily’s classmates).
To my brave chicks, Allen, Steve, and Jaimie
For Hana, Marnie, Teresa, Sally, and Rachel, who are all very good eggs.
Mortensen’s tale of timid poultry fearing poetry rises above other fear-of-the-new titles when its protagonist tackles her own anxiety instead of taking direction from an outside source . . . Touches of humor, verbal and visual, make Lily’s baby step toward bravery believable and replicable.
The watercolor, pen, and ink illustrations are large and, well, cute. Lily’s classmates are all friendly and happy, and Lily’s face is expressive. VERDICT A good choice for schools and public libraries
Mortensen gooses this story of newfound confidence through the liberal use of chicken-themed wordplay. . .