Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gemma and the Baby Chick by Antonia Barber, illus Karin Littlewood

This is a book that almost got the axe a year ago. You know how I mentioned the quantity of books I bring home without really looking at them? Well every once in awhile, I feel the need to weed out unloved books. Doesn't that sound pitiful? However, when we are resorting to stacking books in piles on the floor because the many, many bookcases are overflowing, weeding out is necessary. 

Sigh. Poor books. I always feel badly when I consider the time and effort the author and illustrator put into these books, and here I am, a few years later, a calloused, drowning in books mother, throwing it in the donate-to-the-thrift-store box. 

Don't tell the authors. 

BUT this book did not get the axe. Because I read it and it was delicate and honest. I am not sure why I say honest, but it seems real and true.

The reason is almost got the axe is because it seems slightly earnest. There is almost no humor in the book and it is entirely free of any gimmicks. But the close relationship between Gemma and her mother and the things mentioned in this book that I did not know about hatching chicks saved it. 

Please admire my ceramic chicky in the evening sunlight. 

Gemma lives on a farm with a lot of chickens. 

One day, when collecting eggs, a hen exerted her property rights and refused to give up her eggs. 

The hen was so adamant about keeping her eggs she pecked Gemma. 

Gemma and her mother go out to get the broody coop and transfer the hen and eggs into it. 

The hen is majorly put out. 

Poor broody hen running around senselessly looking for her eggs that are right next to her. 

But soon, she discovers the eggs and settles down intently. 

After a few weeks of sitting on them, Gemma's mother tells her to come see and listen carefully. The eggs were peeping! 

Could they hear each other?

Gemma wondered if it was like talking to each other after the lights were out. 

Then, while Gemma is sleeping, the chicks hatch out. 

But a few eggs are left alone in the cold, when the hen gets off her nest to take care of the chicks that made it. Tender hearted Gemma runs the abandoned eggs into her mother. They put them in a warm bowl of water and discover that one is still viable. They tuck it in an old sweater near the kitchen stove to stay warm. 

That night, Gemma's mother wakes her up to see the egg hatch. They sit quietly on the stairs with the peeping egg, waiting. "It seemed to Gemma that they shared the greatest secret in the world."

Isn't that sweet? I love the closeness of Gemma and her mother. 

The egg, hatching. 

After admiring their hatched out chicky, they carefully carry it out to the hen and place it under the hen. According to Gemma's Mother, if the chick crawls under the hen while she sleeps, the chick will smell like her in the morning and she will care for it. 

"It was an adventure to be creeping down to the henhouse in her nightgown in the moonlit darkness."

Walking back to the house in the quiet darkness. 
"Each was busy with her own thoughts. All the trees seemed full of sleeping birds. Only one bird was still awake, and they paused for a moment before they went in to listen to the nightingale singing in the birch trees on the far side of the pond." 

And that is where my book ends. This is the trouble with having library discards. One of our local library cuts their due date card pocket out, which generally involves cutting the last page. Incredibly annoying. But what can you expect from 25 cent books? I mean besides a whole book. 

WHAT IF THERE ARE MORE WORDS?! I can't bear the suspense. 

I sort of want to be Gemma's mother. The kind that knows to put abandoned eggs in a bowl of warm water to know which ones are viable. The kind of mother who would wake her daughter up out of a sound sleep to show her an everyday sort of miracle. The kind of mother that would pause with her daughter, in the quiet, moonlit darkness to listen to the nightingale singing.

Life goals.