Nora's Chicks by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Kathryn Brown visits one of her favorite places - the prairie. In Nora's Chicks, the titular character is an immigrant from Russia who is missing her home.
With economical precision, MacLachlan captures the emotions of this little girl who has come to America with only a bag of clothes, two dolls and her blanket.
There were no trees like the Russian trees, only one cottonwood tree by the river. There were no hills like the Russian hills.
"Don't cry, Nora," said her father. "We'll plant trees."
"You can't plant a hill!" said Nora.
Things change, but Nora is still unhappy. Her mother hangs pictures of Russia on the walls, her baby brother Milo will start to talk one day soon and a neighbor from far away comes to visit. But Susannah is shy like Nora and the girls don't talk much. A dog who shows up on the farm becomes Milo's mostly companion. Nora goes to town with her father but the people she meets there are not her friends either.
One day Nora's father brings home some chicks and two geese for eating. Nora insists that they are too beautiful to eat. Her father relents and tells her, "All right, Nora. They are yours. Something all your own." And she does make them her own, naming each and every one of them. She even names one Friend. There are three wonderful spreads showing Nora and her brood. They even follow her into town to go to church one Sunday, scrabbling up the aisle as the family searches for a pew.
Later that day, Nora realizes one of her chicks is missing. She searches everywhere. When Natasha finally shows up, it turns out to be a very good day for Nora, maybe even the second best ever.
MacLachlan takes abstract things like loneliness, friendship and new beginnings and presents them in a story with a unique setting for a picture book, the American prairie in the early twentieth century, with an even less common main character, a Russian immigrant, and tells a story that is universal. Brown's illustrations are gentle and windswept, with bright washes of color that are Nora's traditional clothing.
Source: Review Copy