The Adventures of Flopsy and Flathead
by Tina Heinrich
BookVenture Publishing LLC

"Our poor chicken died
to prove that to you.
So, thus is the tale,
every bit of it true,
Of how we got
our chickens two."

The author’s observations of raising Rhode Island Red chickens is the central theme of this charming children’s story. What Heinrich calls a “poetic tale” reads more like a children’s rhyming poem versus a standard children’s picture book. The book is a direct result of the author’s outside-in involvement, watching and hearing from her children about the daily musings of the goings-on of the chickens. She recounts the events that take place between the day her husband brings home the chickens to the day they are left with only two.

Flopsy and Flathead are the two lucky chickens, birds who “chatter to each other” and “strut ‘round the fields / as they work all day,” catching bugs and laying brown eggs. But they are more than just a couple of chickens. They are now an integral part of the author’s family, especially since the unintended tragedies that befell three of the five original chickens in the “little cack-a-doodle troupe.” Knowing no fear, two of the original chickens meet their fateful end in the grasp of the family dogs, Cookie and Nellie (cute names that in no way could allow anyone to anticipate this tragedy). The “chicken hazing” incident is a sad moment that gives the family pause. They do not blame their dogs for their simple nature of play, but they are now aware of the hidden dangers of vulnerable chickens.

Surprisingly, the three surviving chickens and the dogs co-exist with no further accidents between them. The chickens even claim the doghouse, a safety net that protects them from curious stray dogs, coyotes, and the brutal chill of Old Man Winter. Despite their survival, tragedy strikes again when one of the three chickens meets its fateful end by an “evil” golf ball. The family is left with their remaining two chickens, informally named, Flopsy and Flathead (on account of flat combs affected by frostbite). They continue to live as chickens do, avoiding danger, catching bugs, and laying eggs.

It is altogether a simple story of hard truths and wisdom, exploring one family’s understanding of the care of backyard chickens that become beloved pets. Heinrich’s stylistic choice to write this as a poem is interesting, and her skillful rhyming narrative gives a clear, sensory experience of everything that happens. She carefully adheres to the rhyming couplets throughout, keeping tight control of the chronicle and its most important details. It is entertaining with humor, action, and drama.

What is perhaps most endearing about the book are the colorful and vivid images that accompany Heinrich’s words, illustrations provided by the author’s 10-year-old son. They are refreshing and add to the sentimentality of the story, making them appealing and relatable. They elicit an appropriate emotional response from children (and adults) reading the tale.

The story runs a bit long, which might mean that younger readers may not be able to sit still for the whole tale in one sitting. However, Heinrich’s narrative, coupled with her son’s illustrations, makes for a well-executed and descriptive book that shares important lessons of love and loss, kindness, and the crucial responsibilities of caring for and including pets as part of one’s family.

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