Using stuffed chicken mannequins (!) decked out in real chickel feathers. yarn wings, and clothes made from various fabrics (including her daughter's junior prom outfit), Mary Jane Auch creates wild muppet-like figures for this poultry re-telling of the Cinderella fairy tale. The costumes are, as they say, over the top, with day-glo like colored facial features from model clay, and an assorment of jewels and accessories that only glam-rock Barbie and Ken as the artist-once-again-known-as-Prince might wear. Herm Auch, her spouse, acted as art decorator and special effects photographer, digitally inserting photographs of the model chickens into sets that he designed. It's an artistic wonder, although the often busy and slightly cluckered--that is, cluttered--illustrations will not be totally comprehensible to the youngest readers.
Speaking of chicken puns, this book is fowl of them. Some are amusing but formulaic (Extravanganza becomes "eggstravaganza," Exasperating becomes "eggasperating," and there's also "eggscited," "eggsquisite," and "eggsactly"), but others evince show a clever and mischievous mind: Chickerella's not so nice stepsisters are named "Ovumelda" and "Cholestera," and the stepmother, who looks like a washed-up B-movie actor with a taste for gaudy leopard skin jumpers, ostentatious jewl-encrusted glasses, and gelled-out stringy black hair, seems like a bad egg from the start: "'Such a sweet girl,' said the step mother with a smile that gave Chickerella hen bumps."
The fairy goosemother arrives in the nick of time, a bird that I had mixed feelings about. Her Brooklynesque accent and pop psychology bit ("Don't wait for someone else to fix things, dearie. You take charge.") seemed just a bit contrived, but the goose as fairy is a wonderful incongruity, and get has some of the funniest lines ("I don't do transportation, dearie," she says, when Chickerella remembers that a coach will be waiting for her.) The Fowl Ball (nice for the baseball fan!) has all the trappings of a high school prom, with overdressed chickens, am obligatory blue-lit dance floor with a rotating crystal hung from the ceiling, and a vie piece band, "Penny Pullet abd the ROck Island Reds. Finally, there's a happy updated entrepreneurial conclusion, as the Prince not only matches the lost crystal egg with Chickerella, but discovers they have a common interest: Fashion--not matrimoney!
Toddlers and young grade-schoolers will like the wacky retelling of the familiar story, the irrepresible punning, and the wildly imaginative costumes. A more 3-dimensional look might have reduced the visual complexity for young toddlers, but the basic story is familiar enough that They won't get lost either. Although some of the "wow" factor seems aimed towards adults, one particularlyr nice touch shows that the Auchs were thinking of their audience. A potentially disturbing opening, "Chickerella had a wonderful childhood until one night when a fox got carried into the coop and carried off her mother," is written beneath a comforting picture of Chickerella's father reading to her. Still, this is another reason I would recommend Chickerella to somewhat older little kids, or at least those who have can comprehend the fantasy underpinning, the stylized fowl, and the eggstra dose of barnyard punnery.