Chickenhare by Chris Grine, 157 pp, RL 3

Chickenhare by Chris Grine was published by Scholastic's Graphix imprint in 2013. It was originally published, in black and white, by Dark Horse Comics in 2006, with Book 2, Fire in the Hole, which you can preview here, coming out in 2008. A third book, Fish & Grymps, was planned but never published.  I'm pretty sure I would have instantly loved Chickenhare in its original form, but the new color edition is FANTASTIC!! Grine's characters are very original but also feel like old friends. I'd be hard pressed to pick my favorite, but think that the ghost of Mr. Buttons would probably be at the top of my list, with Banjo close behind. But, I'm getting ahead of myself...

When we first meet our hero, he and his best friend Abe, a rare bearded turtle, are chained to the back of Barley, trudging through the snow. Out to make a buck, Barley is hoping to sell them to an extremely eccentric, exotic animal collector. Chickenhare and Abe don't seem to distressed and even make a joke or two along the way, although the apparition of a funny-looking goat does give Chickenhare pause.

Mr Klaus, the eccentric, well, who am I kidding, this guy is crazy, collector is actually a taxidermist and things don't look good for Chickenhare and Abe, who find themselves caged along with Meg and Banjo, Mr. Plumms, the executioner/taxidermist on guard. Meanwhile, Mr. Fingerbones, the butler, humors Mr. Klaus, who's thoughts always return to Mr. Buttons, his beloved pet goat who ran away 40 years ago. The oddball quartet manage an escape and find themselves not much better off in the snowy terrain.

And this is where the action really takes off. Chickenhare, following the call of the ghostly Mr. Buttons, wanders away from the group, who end up in the claws of the Shromphs, cute but deadly snow-cave dwelling creatures with razor sharp teeth. And, despite their severely injured states, Mr. Klaus, Plumms, Fingerbones and Beef and Patty, the cooks, take off in a sled after the escapees. There is a climactic battle and a brave and sort of sad sacrifice that isn't technically a sacrifice, ending with a (cringe-worthy) celebration feast. As the four set off, the King of the Shromphs offers the quartet his best boat and first mate Scabby to get them home again. Grine leaves readers with a bit of a cliffhanger, learning that Banjo is a Krampus, but never revealing WHAT exactly it means to be a Krampus... I have read the preview pages at Dark Horse and the next leg of the adventure looks even more exciting! No publication date yet for Book 2 in color, but there is a movie in the works...

Readers who enjoyed Chickenhare should check out
Giants Beware! while waiting for Book 2!

Books 2 & the never-published 3...

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