Meredith Costain (text), and Danielle McDonald (illustrations), The Big Chicken Mystery (Olivia’s Secret Scribbles #5), Scholastic Australia, February 2019, 96 pp., RRP $9.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781743817636.
This is a delightful book, just right for newly-minted readers in so many ways. The story is relatable and engagingly told, the pages look so inviting, and there’s just the right amount of words and pictures.
The story centres around the school’s chickens that the children had watched incubate, hatch into chicks and then grow. Many Aussie kids will relate to having seen this themselves at school or kindergarten. The chickens have been living in the school coop, but need to find new homes to make room for the next lot of hatchlings. Olivia is super keen to take two chickens home – she just has to convince her parents! And build a chicken house! There’s a few hiccups, plenty of problem solving and creativity and loads of inspiration for fun beyond-the-book activities. The author has cleverly woven in interesting information about chickens and how they benefit gardens too.
The design is sweet, set out like a young girl’s diary with both the text and illustrations in black, white and sunshine yellow. Each day’s entry covers a handful of pages, perfect for reading one-at-a-time. There are loads of pictures on every page, breaking up the text and adding humour that parents will appreciate too.
Reviewed by Carissa Mason