Book Review: Chicken Joy on Redbean Road: A Bayou Country Romp by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 2—Louisiana life is good for a sonorous-voiced rooster with a blue head and the brown hen named Miss Cleoma. That is until a bad bout of chicken measles steals the rooster's crow and makes him ripe for Mrs. Miser's "silent rooster stew." A desperate Miss Cleoma two-steps a "rooster-in-danger dance" down the road, seeking help from Mr. Joe Beebee, the best musician around. Meanwhile, Mrs. Miser's attempts to grab her ax to deal with the rooster are delayed as farmyard animals pitch veggies in front of her (think of the Greek myth of Atalanta and the Golden Apples) that simply must go into the stew first. Mr. Joe Beebee comes to the rescue, gathering neighbors and musicians who converge on Mrs. Miser's house ready to create a music-filled party. The rooster is inspired to crow, Mrs. Miser sells her "seven-vegetable stew" to partygoers, and good times ("Bons temps!") are had by all. Saturated in Cajun and Creole cadences and sensibilities, this rollicking, multilayered tale is at once lyrical and tongue-in-cheek funny. The playful illustrations are a clever mix of collage and bright watercolors that feature varying perspectives and impressively expressive poultry. The spreads are overlaid with panels of handmade paper containing the pictures, with chickens dancing a red-dotted trail over, under, and around them. The sheer insouciance of both text and art will have readers dancing the two-step and sharing that chicken joy as well. Marge Loch-Wouters, Menasha Public Library, WI

From Booklist

Miss Cleoma, "a plain brown hen," loves the crowing of the blue-headed rooster, but when he loses his voice after a case of the chicken measles, he is threatened with becoming "quiet rooster stew." Deciding that music will cure him, Cleoma sets out to find Joe Beebee, the best fiddle player there is. Good-natured Joe returns with Cleoma, gathering musically inclined neighbors on the way, and when they play the song "about waltzing on the moon," the blue-headed rooster crows "as if the world were brand new and he was off to see it." Martin's cumulative tale may be overly long, but it has some fine turns of phrase, and Sweet's mixed-media illustrations, picturing exuberant, brightly hued characters on backgrounds of creamy paper, have a buoyancy that elevates the text. An author's note recognizes Louisiana musicians, "who play music so good it could make quiet roosters sing," and the story pays homage to the area and the music with the occasional Cajun phrase. Janice Del Negro

Product Details

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (April 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618507590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618507597


Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of Snowflake Bentley, winner of the 1999 Caldecott Medal. She grew up on a farm in Maine and now she lives in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

 About The Book:

Joe Beebee's music, folks say, will take you up so high, your problems look small enough to stomp on. But, worries a plain brown hen, can it make a quiet rooster sing? can it save her best friend from becoming Quiet Rooster Stew? Will Joe Beebee even play for chickens?

With art as fun as waltzing on the moon and with words as lively as a fiddle, this book captures the power of music to heal and of friendship to endure.

How I love this book and author's style of writing. I grew up on a farm, raised 2 daughters on a 100-acre ranch and I still live on a ranch in an avocado grove! I love chickens and Melissa Sweet's illustrations are gorgeous and so very colorful. The book begins with: "Everybody in St.Cecilia Parish knew of Joe Beebee (down Redbean Road). His music set empty shoes to dancing."

From the jacket flap - " When people danced to Joe Beecee's music, they forgot bad knees, tight shoes, backaches, blisters, and beetles. They forgot sickness, sadness, and sin." Well, one day the roo got the measles and lay low. Everyone knew that a rooster who couldn't crow anymore was headed for rooster stew! The story line is excellent as the plot unfolds and we are introduced to more characters. You've got to read this book because it is so good!

My favorite page is the 2 page illustration of the whole village dancing: "Joe Beebee played the song about going to Texas, His fiddle took them up like a swing on a  big old tree - with room for all: two-legs, four-legs, wings, and fins - up so high their worries looked small enough to stomp on." While the band played their favorite song about waltzing on the moon, the rooster raised his head! It was a pure chicken joy to hear the rooster crow, coup-a-doodle-dodoo. And I love the ending of the story... a must read! 5 stars!

In the very back of the book the author adds:

"On the plains of Louisiana, Lafayette and west, there have been, and still are, musicians who play music, music so good it could make quiet roosters sing - Amede Ardoin, Adam Fontenot, Dennis McGee, Canray Fontenot, Nathan Abshire, Alphonse "Bois-Sec" Ardoin,  Iry Lejeune, the Balfa Brothers, Clifton Chenier, Boozoo Chavez, Marc Savoy, Michael Douchette, Buckwheat Zydeco, John Delafose, Christine Balfa, and many others."

This completes Book #5 for  this new reading challenge:

Chicken Joy on Redbean Road has a special place in my heart because my cousin was a D.J. in New Orleans. Right when Katrina hit, he was able to get out with his guitar and all of his music possessions. My cousin now has a successful music career in los Angeles. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti at this time.

Chicken Joy on Redbean Road: A Bayou Country Romp

Warmest Regards,

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