Daniel Pinkwater is a very funny guy. He makes frequent appearances on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday to discuss children's books with the host Scott Simon. I have discovered many a great story time book thanks to Mr Pinkwater. Sometimes Pinkwater and Simon will even read the books out loud, which is great. And, of course, he has written over 100 children's books. If you never read another one of his books, please make sure you read his picture book Big Orange Splot. Otherwise, check out what he can do for a 266 pound chicken named Henrietta.
Arthur Bobowicz is sent out to find a turkey for the family's Thanksgiving dinner, even though no one really likes it. While he has no luck finding any poultry, he does find a card for Professor Mazzocchi, Inventor of the Chicken System. For a mere sixteen dollars he takes the enormous Henrietta home with him and promptly becomes enamored of her. Arthur's parents don't mind keeping her as a pet at first, but when she causes a neighborhood disturbance he is forced to return her. The Professor offers to trade her for a rectangular goldfish, another creation of his, but Arthur leaves sad and empty handed. The next day, the Henrietta is loose on the streets of Hoboken and the Professor is hightailing it out of town.
The citizens of Hoboken consider themselves terrorized and demand the mayor take action. He hires Anthony DePalma, Chicken Hunter from Henfanger, Florida, who deploys his sure fire chicken attractor, Frankie. Frankie, a robot chicken, made from styrofoam cups, a car battery and a black wig, looks suspiciously like Mr De Palma. When his trap attracts only a few cats, dogs and an old man named Meehan, he flees in the mayor's limousine. Next up is Dr Hsu Ting Feng, formerly the teacher of Mr DePalma. Dr Hsu's approach to chickens is a bit different and, when he insists that the whole city agree to love Henrietta rather than fear her, things turn around for everyone.
It's no wonder that Henrietta makes a guest appearance in Jon Scieszka's Time Warp Trio book Summer Reading is Killing Me. Pinkwater is clearly an influence on his writing, which is silly and antic and a little bit absurd. This book makes for a very fun read aloud, but is also a great book for boys who are just becoming solid readers.