Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tillie Lays An Egg by Terry Golson with photography by Ben Fink - review

Tillie Lays An Egg by Terry Golson with photography by Ben Fink
Chickens, like penguins, are always funny. When I had chickens, and, yes, I had chickens in my city backyard, I used to go out a couple times a day to just sit and watch them bumble around and giggle to myself. Chickens - well I don't think I'm going to offend them by saying this - chickens are... not bright. My chickens, for example, were dumb enough to get themselves eaten by anything with teeth, and at least one thing without teeth. I've sworn off keeping chickens because I can't endure the heartbreak of losing any more. Hawks, foxes, raccoons, a dog, and I think possibly a family of possums consumed a total of eleven chickens at my house.

Penguin, Barge and Lou, July 2005

So I dedicate my review of this darling book in loving memory of Micker-Micker and Mrs. Miller, timid Penguin, big beautiful Barge, rock star Lou, Lou Two, three pullets that the kindergarten had raised from chicks, and two bad-tempered Polish hens whose names I can't remember. The funny, fun, beautiful photographs in Tillie Lays an Egg made me heave a wistful sigh thinking of how wonderful it was for my kids to have a chance to observe the life cycle firsthand, to think about food and where it comes from, and how nice it was to pet those gorgeous girls.

As you can probably tell from my photos, taking pictures of chickens is not easy. Either they are curious about the camera, and you get freaky close-up pictures of beaks and eyes - not the most attractive aspect of a chicken - or they are terrified of the camera, and run like idiots as soon as they see it. So the photographs in Tillie Lays an Egg, which are well-lit, in focus, and STAGED, for goodness sake! are not only entertaining, but really impressive.

As is the concept as a whole. Tillie, a chicken who thinks outside the coop, prefers wandering in search of worms to waiting for her turn in a nesting box. Every day she explores a different corner of the farm, and every day she lays her egg in an unexpected place. Children and adults have been observed enjoying the hunt for Tillie's eggs in each day's picture, and chuckling over the vintage chicken-themed items that pop up here and there - a chicken doormat, board games, table linens, and a juice glass that I covet.

I can't think of a more lovely hommage to these sometimes underappreciated farmyard friends, and I was so pleased to read that the chickens in the book - and all the chickeny props - are the author's own. I look forward to the further adventures of Tillie.


Durable Goods said...

I wanted to REALLY like this book but I have to admit my albeit high expectations were only partially met. I agree that the photos and layout (no pun intended) were excellent, but the "story" seemed lacking. I was somewhat disappointed by what was passed off as a plot, which seemed like it could have been better. I'm with you, though, that I look forward to future adventures with Tillie!

Terry said...

Thanks for the nice review of my book. I'm finding that lots of librarians have an affinity for chickens! It took me a year at flea markets and on ebay to find the props. That juice glass you covet was a promotional item given out by a feed company to farmers in the 1960s. BTW, I trained my chickens to pose. As easy as training dogs, really! I'm sorry that Durable Goods was disappointed by the plot. If you live with chickens, you know they don't exactly have exciting lives. The plot in the book was rather thrilling for the real Tillie : )