My youngest son turned three in June. Three is an absolutely wonderful age: full of big-boy swagger, unbearably sweet and curious and emotional outpourings, and insane amounts of language acquisition. But it’s also a little bittersweet, because he has begun to reject some of our read-aloud standbys.
So after thousands of hours reading aloud thousands of books (and hey, industry folks, why aren’t we publicizing the hell out of these two studies?), I am ready to name my Most Valuable Picture Book for my two children from when they were ages zero to three…
It is Good Morning, Chick, written by Mirra Ginsburg, adapted from a story by the renowned Russian poet and essayist Korney Chukovsky, with illustrations by Byron Barton. August 1 marks the thirtieth anniversary of its publication.
It is a near-perfect picture book text, flawlessly illustrated. It has a classic—say it with me—beginning, middle, and end. A baby chick is born. He discovers that he is all yellow, and he meets his mother. She shows him how he can feed himself: peck-peck, peck-peck, peck-peck. He has a suspenseful and scary run-in with a farmyard cat and an embarrassing, sodden encounter with a bull frog. Both times, his mother is there to protect him and to make things all better. The book ends happily with mother and chick once again looking for worms and crumbs and seeds, peck-peck, peck-peck, peck-peck.
The book is structured in a way that’s ideal for read-alouds—the descriptive text for each spread is set beneath a small piece of spot art on the verso page, opposite a full-bleed illustration on the recto page, the only text there being the recurring line, “like this.” It is a brilliant set-up. The “like this” maximizes the amount of time the little listener has to view the illustrations, while reminding them there is something beyond the next page turn. The chick’s nascent independence and moxie is irresistible. The ending wraps up the story nicely while leaving the reader thinking that Chick and Speckled Hen have many more adventures ahead of them.
Never once was I unhappy to be asked to read this book (parents, teachers, librarians, or anyone who reads aloud to children: don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about). Our kids were always happy to have it read to them. What about you, faithful blog readers? Share your most valuable young picture book read-aloud recommendations in the comments, and join me in celebrating thirty years of Good Morning, Chick.