In search of adventure, Louise goes to sea, joins the circus, and travels to a faraway land in three different chapters. Her adventures are not without peril: the ship she is on is attacked by pirates; she falls from the high wire almost into the mouth of an escaped lion; and she is kidnapped and held prisoner. Each time, Louise’s heart beats fast within her feathered breast, but each time she is saved, be it by chance, skill, or bravery, and she always returns to the henhouse where her friend Monique always asks her where she’s been. “Oh, here and there,” Louise answers; she then sleeps the “sleep of the true adventurer.” In the final chapter, Louise tells Monique and the other chickens about her adventures. As they listen to Louise’s stories, their hearts beat fast within their feathered breasts, and that night they all sleep “the deep and dreamless and peaceful sleep of true adventurers.”
According to a 2011 Florida State study, only 7.5% of nearly 6,000 picture books published between 1900 and 2000 have female animal protagonists. (Check out Why are there so few girls in children’s books? by Jennie Yabroff in the Washington Post if you’d like to learn more about this topic.) Not only is Louise a female protagonist, but she has an adventurous and brave spirit. And not only can monsters illuminate life (as they do in Marilyn’s Monster), but chickens can be feminist role models.
Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Harry Bliss. Published by Joanna Cotler Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers in 2008.