The Trouble with Chickens (J.J. Tully Mystery, book 1)
By Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Published 2011 by HarperCollins
I'm a big fan of Cronin's picture books and was excited to hear about her foray into chapter books. Plus, the idea for this one just sounded adorable. I picked it up recently because I got an ARC of the second title.
J.J. Tully is a retired search-and-rescue dog, living the good life in suburbia now. But his peace and quiet is interrupted when it becomes evident that his chickens are in danger. Yes, his chickens. I really, really enjoyed this book. It's a very quick read with short, interesting chapters, which I think is perfect for those just beginning to delve into chapter books. Additionally, I think this book has a great tone - it's very funny and I think it's humorous on multiple levels. First, and what will appeal to kids, is that it's just a silly book. A dog is going to rescue some crazy chickens from an evil dog who wears a cone around his head? Absurd humor. But, for an older audience who might pick this up, J.J. has a sarcastic sense of humor that would really appeal to a more advanced reader (once they discover sarcasm, kids never give up on it). Admittedly, some of the things will go over the intended audience's head, as this book also contains a lot of parody to classic noir/crime stories. But I think the story is enjoyable enough on its other levels to still make this an excellent choice. Plus, mysteries are hugely popular with kids, as well as talking animals - best of both worlds!