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The Churkendoose Review by Melissa ThebergeBy Lynda Bulla
Katy-Did Publishing LLC
San Joaquin, CA 93660
Barnyard stories can be fun, and The Churkendoose combines a barnyard setting with lessons about growing up. It was originally written in 1946 and was rewritten based on childhood memories for this 2004 version. This hardcover storybook is full of illustrations and bold type, and seems more suitable as a read-aloud than as an easy reader for young children. The story includes quite a bit of dialogue, which is printed in a larger type to help it stand out on the page. Because the storyline involves a song, a CD with two music tracks is attached to the back cover of the book. One track includes the song with lyrics, and the other is just the music so children can sing along. The sound on the CD is not of the highest quality, and it is somewhat difficult to hear the lyrics.
The story itself begins with the arrival of a mysterious egg at the barnyard. Turkeys, geese, ducks, and chickens all work together to hatch it, though they disagree about the methods quite a bit. The hatchling is unique, so a disagreement ensues regarding who should raise him and how, which results in a shared effort by all. Meanwhile, the youngsters of all breeds tease the unusual hatchling, and somehow, he manages to just ignore their behavior and grow into a confident bird who is admired by all. He later discovers that he is a gifted singer, and since he is unlike any bird in the barnyard, he finally decides he is a combination of them all--Churkendoose. The message here is to be true to yourself while recognizing the influence of those around you.
The commentary on the back of the book says that this story "is about coming together for a common good, about acceptance and growing up and making choices." While I do think that it attempts these lofty tasks, I am afraid that in the end it falls short. The Churkendoose is intended for young children, but I find it a bit too complicated to express the messages it intends, and the young reader is left to make a lot of assumptions without the author's guidance. It was easy to become confused about which bird was speaking, especially since all four breeds had varied responses to the unusual hatchling. Additionally, the beige and white color palette used for the birds was very similar for each breed, making it difficult to rely on visual cues. The Churkendoose himself actually looks quite a bit like an ostrich, which added to the confusion.
I first read this story with my five-year-old, who liked the funny-sounding title, the purple egg, and the song, but she found it difficult to tell me more than this. My two older girls enjoyed reading it as well, but their impressions were similarly brief. Unfortunately, I do not think this book is one that I would purchase or recommend adding to a personal library. However, I do appreciate the author's and illustrator's personal connection to this old story, and I'm sure it will continue to be precious in their memory.