Black, Michael Ian. 2009. CHICKEN CHEEKS: (THE BEGINNING OF THE ENDS). Ill. by Kevin Hawkes. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416948643 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK- 2]
CHICKEN CHEEKS is a giggle-out-loud picture book that teaches about synonyms while it entertains. While Hawkes’ bright, comic illustrations tell the story of a veritable zoo of animals building a living ladder to reach a beehive, the text simply names the most prominent part of each animal in the illustration. In each case, this happens to be their backside. From “moose caboose” to “flamingo fanny,” astonished, annoyed and anxious animals build their living ladder until a “bumble bee bum!” brings the whole thing crashing to the ground.
Michael Ian Black is a stand-up comedian, and for his first foray into the world of children’s books he has hit the nail on the head with clever alliterations and synonyms. Hawkes’ illustrations jump from the pages as each very concerned animal struggles to hold up the animal above him while his “gnu wazoo” hangs in midair.
Use the book as an introduction to the concept of synonyms and have children come up with their own “backside” words for different animals. Have the children look at the illustrations in this book or other almost-wordless picture books and as a group write a story for the action in the pictures.
Other picture books for children about animal backsides:
Halliday, Ayun. ALWAYS LOTS OF HEINIES AT THE ZOO. ISBN 9781423113522
Smallman, Steve. THE MONKEY WITH A BRIGHT BLUE BOTTOM. ISBN 978-1561486687
Other wordless or almost-wordless picture books:
Briggs, Raymond. THE SNOWMAN. ISBN 978-0241139387
Wiesner, David. FLOTSAM. ISBN 978-0618194575
Wiesner, David. TUESDAY. ISBN 978-0395870822
By Cecily Ponce de Leon