With a slightly silly central premise, carefully selected language and strong theme, The Chicken Knitters is every bit as good as the best standalone books for emerging readers.
Clickety-click-click. Lilly loves to knit. However, when she hears a ‘cluck-sob-sigh’ sound through her open window, she tucks her knitting needles behind her ears and sets off to investigate. She soon discovers the source of the cries – Farmer Claw is keeping all his hens crammed together in a barn, forcing them to lay more and more eggs. Many are so unhappy that they’ve lost all their feathers. Lilly can’t stand to see these cruel conditions and to see the chickens so cold. She’s determined to help but will she succeed with just her knitting skills, especially when Farmer Claw discovers what she’s up to?
The Chicken Knitters is a ‘Gold Level’ book in the Early Reading Scheme from Maverick Arts Publishing. I’ve now reviewed a handful of the books from this scheme (there are reviews of Level 3 and Level 4 books and Level 9 and Level 10 elsewhere on this site) and I’ve been impressed by the quality and originality of the stories. However, this is the first time that I’ve singled out one book from this series to review separately. This is because The Chicken Knitters is every bit as good as the best standalone books for emerging readers.
Let’s start with the story itself. I loved everything about this from the slightly silly central premise to the details author, Cath Jones, incorporates. For example, when Lilly finds the barn is locked, she uses the handy knitting needle tucked behind her ear to get in. And, when she sees the chickens shivering, she immediately sets about knitting them some cosy chicken-sized jumpers. Her knitting skills also shape the plot and the climax when nasty Farmer Claw is defeated – yes, you’ve guessed it – by a trap Lilly and her friends have knitted!
While the story is light-hearted and instantly appealing, I also liked the way it subtly raises awareness around the issue of cruelty to battery chickens. The underlying theme about the triumph of good over evil is also always good for this age range.
As this is part of an early reading scheme the language is carefully selected to fit the book’s grading, but this is by no means obvious when reading this book. Instead, the text flows well with lots of interest that keeps the reader wanting to read on. The structure of the book into five distinct chapters is also shaped by the reading scheme but, again, this works well and gives the feel of a real ‘grown up’ book.
The full colour Illustrations by Sean Longcroft are clear, lively and colourful and complement the text well, giving clues to help the child decipher any unfamiliar words and aid their reading. I particularly like the picture of the chickens trotting behind Lilly on their way to school and the picture of Farmer Claw running away bound up in wool.
If you enjoyed this, you might want to try the other books in the Maverick Early Reader scheme. I particularly enjoyed Jetpack Jelly by Alice Hemming. Alternatively, why not try Unicorn in New York: Louie Lets Loose! by Rachel Hamilton.
Date: March 2019
Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
Website: Cath Jones