Nora's chicks by Patricia MacLachlan
Ill. by Kathryn Brown. Candlewick Press, 2013. ISBN 978 0 7636 4753
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Picture book. Friendship. Belonging. Migration. When Nora and her family move from Russia to take up farming in the American prairies, life is very different from the life they left behind. Father has his work, mother has her colourful house, even her baby brother Milo finds a stray dog to adopt, but Nora is alone. She misses the hills and trees of Russia, her family and her friends, until one day father brings home a dozen chicks and 2 geese. Nora adopts them immediately, disallowing her father's idea that they be raised to eat. The birds follow her everywhere, even to church, and it is after church one day that she finds one chick is missing.
A neat resolution saves the day and Nora finds a friend in the girl on the next farm through her chicks.
The sweeping prairies are beautifully drawn by the illustrator, and bring the vastness of the new land home to the reader. Small things dot each page reminding us of the isolation of these people, and of the new life they have chosen to live. That the new arrivals have come from a vastly different setting is made clear through mum's pictures on the wall, and the few treasures they were able to bring with them. Their clothes show them to be different as do their head scarves and even the way they tie their hair. Details such as these cry out to be noted and discussed.
This is the story of all who set out to make a fresh start, a new beginning, finding comfort in the new, making friends and overcoming loneliness. It is the story of so many of us, and all readers will find something in the story to identify with and feel part of.
Patrician MacLachlan is the author of the beautiful, Sarah plain and tall, a Newbery Medal Winner in 1986, which was made into a film.