Reviewed by Rod McLary
If you ever have a young friend or relative who is feeling cranky with the world or – perhaps closer to home – a sibling, this may well be an excellent book to bring out and, in a comfortable place, read it aloud to them.
The subtitle to this charming and entertaining book for very young children is ‘A cranky chicken, an extremely cheerful worm and a very unlikely friendship’ [front cover]. The cover also has a picture of the chicken and the worm which clearly illustrates their natures. Looking closely at the cover illustration, a bright child will see the rain falling on the chicken and the worm holding a brightly coloured umbrella. There can be little doubt as to what may be found within the pages of the book.
The story begins with the cranky chicken – or the Queen of Crank as she is better known – walking and grumbling at everything in her path until she reaches a leaf blocking her way. In a fit of the grumbles, she tosses it aside and uncovers a worm trapped under the leaf. This worm – called Speedy – is no ordinary worm but an ‘extremely cheerful worm’ who is determined to be friends with the chicken. Pointing out all the things to be cheerful about – like the sky, the breeze and the flowers – the worm discovers that Chicken is lonely. But Chicken is not going to give in too easily and the first part ends with her asking Speedy ‘what’s that thing when you’re not cranky?’  and the answer of course is ‘happy’.
Part two explores the meaning of friendship in simple ideas – holding hands, singing together, braiding each other’s hair and arm wrestling – each put alongside colourful sketches illustrating the chicken and the worm doing those shared activities.
Part three has Chicken and Speedy learning to fly [although the worm is just riding on the chicken’s back] and concludes with them sharing some positive affirmations – ‘you are a star flier, Chicken’ and ‘you too Wing Worm’  – grown-up readers may notice the subtle pun.
Between the three parts are brief and humorous sections entitled ‘Find out more about Chicken’, ‘More Chicken facts’ and ‘Worm stuff’.
All in all, this is a fun book to read to the young children among your family and friends. There are few words and many colourful illustrations which will readily entertain the children. And there is an important message there as well – what is friendship and how is it expressed. The concepts of shared activities and interests are conveyed simply and in words easily understood.
Katherine Battersby has created – and illustrated – a book which even the most discerning children [and their parents] will enjoy.
The author is an acclaimed author and illustrator of a number of children’s books including Perfect Pigeons and Squish Rabbit. Her books have been shortlisted for many awards.
by Katherine Battersby
Lothian Children’s Books
ISBN 978 0 7344 2095 4