Mary and Her Chicks – A True Story
by Emily J. Ruffner
Trafford Publishing

"When she had a clutch of twelve eggs, she made herself comfortable on her nest, covering her eggs with her body to keep them warm so that the baby chicks could grow inside the shells."

Inspired by true events witnessed by the author many years prior on a small family farm in Southern California, Mary and Her Chicks tells the tale of a White Leghorn chicken living among a flock of Rhode Island Reds. Impelled by instinct, Mary leaves the barn where the nesting boxes are housed to lay her eggs in a dirt hole far from the rest of the farm animals. When Peter, the boy who cares for the chickens, discovers her self-made nest, he replaces every one of Mary's white eggs with an egg from a Rhode Island Red because it is important the chicks not be a mix of the two breeds. But Mary is a dedicated mother and sits on her eggs regardless of the exchange. Soon they hatch and Mary raises her clutch of twelve babies proudly, teaching them and protecting them admirably until they become full grown chickens themselves.

The story of Mary and her adopted chicks offers an interesting glimpse in to the landscape and real practices that make up life on a small farm. The author provides just enough detail to paint a very coherent picture of Mary's eccentricities as well as the rituals involved in raising fowl. Mary is recreated for the reader as a very real and sympathetic creature who made a clear impact on the writer those many years ago. The writing itself is straightforward without being simplistic and informs seamlessly through the telling of Mary's story, incorporating vocabulary that might otherwise seem unfamiliar while allowing readers to infer meaning through context and illustration. Although the text itself could benefit from some enlarging, the vivid farm animal depictions are expertly rendered and do a superb job of recreating the scenes so precisely described.

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