In the library world, we are always a bit surprised to learn how many young readers do not know some of the basic stories and rhymes. This week we are reading aloud Out of the Egg by Tina Matthews. It is a "Little Red Hen" sort of story without the baking of bread, and only about half the children seem to know the original version. In this version, the Red Hen asks for help as she tends to a seedling, and Fat Cat, Dirty Rat, and Greedy Pig have no interest in helping. And it is not those three who want to play under the tree's shade many years later; their children do. Though Red Hen denies their request, her chick tells her it would be mean to do so, and they all play together. Red Hen sends the three little ones home with a seed each.
With woodcut illustrations and just two colors, the visual impact is striking, but the words are what engage the children. As the three lazy creatures utter, "Not I," repeatedly, one page shows them with two signs. One reads, "Not I. Not I." Another reads "Knot Eye." Discussions about homophones have been abundant, and the younger readers always seem to tie an imaginary knot with their hands as they explain that word's meaning. For some, the distinction between a rooster and a hen is eye-opening. Regardless, attention is high, and suggestions to read other versions are welcomed!