Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh

Waiting for Chicken Smith 
Review Copy from Candlewick Press
I always love reading a picture book by David Mackintosh, even when the story doesn't quite click with me. And I especially love Waiting for Chicken Smith, which is a near-perfect picture book. The voice of the narrator, a boy waiting on the beach in front of his family's rental cabin for his summer friend to arrive. As he waits, holding the whale that Chicken Smith carved for him out of driftwood the summer before, his little sister plays in the sand nearby. As he waits, he tells readers that Chicken, who comes every summer with his dad and his dog, Jelly, knows the beach like the back of his hand. Chicken can, "kick a tennis ball from the top step onto the beach, and Jelly will fetch it every time." Chicken even carved his initials somewhere on his cabin and says he'll buy the narrator a milkshake if he can find them. Together, with sandwiches Chicken's dad makes them, the friends walk to the lighthouse each summer to hunt for whales with Chicken's binoculars. They have never seen one, but Chicken did carve his whole name on the lighthouse door.
Details like these charmingly authentic glimpses continue, the narrator's sister insistently calling for him to come look and hurry up. Illustrations show cobwebs on Chicken's cabin where a "for rent" sign can now be seen hanging. When he finally does listen to his sister, the two share a moment, witnessing something that he and Chicken Smith never did together. The siblings race back to their cabin for dinner, where, afterwards, they look at a book together and make plans to hunt for shells the next day. Mackintosh's illustrations, a combination of drawing, collage, watercolor, and kraft paper, are childlike and powerful, are filled with a range of emotions and perfectly paired with his story. This is a book that must be read and savored, over and over.


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