The Minerva Louise series
by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Children's books review by P.J. Rooks
Some heedless hen is losing her eggs. Motherless victims of abandon, they're showing up in all kinds of weird places -- and some of them are so cold, they're turning blue! But not to fret, little babies, because Minerva Louise, the world's most meddlesome chicken, is on the case.
Minerva Louise races to the hen house to mobilize the troops, but her feathered friends remain mostly unflappable. They've never seen a blue egg, though, so curiosity gets the best of them and they strut out into the cool, spring sunshine, bearing witness to blue eggs, pink eggs, eggs with green stripes and more. Whew -- but all is normal -- the farmer's children are collecting the fancy eggs. The children are looking mighty fancy today too, as a matter of fact, and the chickens, who are used to seeing the farmers gather eggs, can go back to their lazy ways, safe in the knowledge that drama queen Minerva Louise is guilty of jumping to conclusions -- again -- and her conclusions are always wrong.
But that's what makes it so much fun. Like an Amelia Bedelia for the younger crowd (reviewed on this site), Minerva Louise's many adventures by Janet Morgan Stoeke show us the world through the eyes of one very nosy but ill-informed chicken. Bird-brain that she is, Minerva Louise has lots of trouble telling the difference between what is alive and what is not. She tries to join forces with a rocking horse to protect her farmers' home from a red-suited, midnight intruder (Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve), invites a rubber duck to join her in the yard to play (Minerva Louise) and can't figure out how to join all the other chickens behind the fun-house mirrors (Minerva Louise at the Fair).
These books are good for teaching little ones a sense of humor -- and I do mean teach. With my four-year-old, the Minerva Louise series went very slowly in the beginning. My daughter enjoyed the bright, friendly pictures, of course, but it was rather lost on her why it might be funny to see a chicken ask a snowman where he got his hat, for example.
On each page, we'd stop and examine the incongruity, like Minerva Louise commenting on what a perfect chair she's found as she crushes the life out of pot of flowers. "Is that a chair?" I'd ask. "No," my daughter would say with a grave shake of her head. "Silly chicken!" said I. Ha! Now that's funny!
These days, Claire points out the problems for me. "Are those fireflies?" she'll say, then she finishes it up herself. "No, they're Christmas lights! Silly chicken!" Laugh, laugh, laugh. With each page rolling out its own adventure in "what's wrong with this picture," Minerva Louise is very funny (especially if you're four. If you're 39, you might say that she reminds you a bit of your cat who, like Minerva Louise, always seems to be in the wrong place but wherever that may be, rest assured, she owns it.)
Okay, I admit, the Minerva Louise books are not without humor for adults, too -- I love the "where's your mother?" approach to all things round and small -- but I'd have to say that the greatest joy Stoeke brings is getting to share a laugh with your little one before bedtime. Here are the titles to check out:
All the Minerva Louise books on Amazon.)
Read more of P.J.'s reviews.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.