Books CORL (Check Off your Reading List) Challenge 2014 Fantasy and Paranormal GB Challenges Picture Books Reading Themes

Sibling Bears and Chicken Henny: Soman’s “Three Bears in a Boat” and Stanton’s “Henny”

Myra here.

Many thanks, dear Iphigene, for this lovely widget. Truly beautiful.
Many thanks, dear Iphigene, for this lovely widget. Truly beautiful.

These two picturebooks have been shared quite a bit by our friends from the kidlitosphere. Since these gorgeous books deal with talking bears traveling in a boat and a peculiar chicken with hands, I thought it would still fit quite nicely with our current reading theme as we explore the boundaries of fantasy.


Written and Illustrated by: Elizabeth Rose Stanton
Published byA Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Henny is not your ordinary chicken. Rather than wings that flap, Henny was born with arms. Yes, arms. While Henny’s mother was initially surprised at finding such a peculiar chick, she loved Henny nonetheless and thought little of it apart from the initial astonishment at finding such a strange chick-ling.


What I found to be particularly effective in this picturebook was how Henny dealt with her strangeness. There is an acknowledgment about how she enjoyed being different and how she didn’t like being different. The complexity of such contrasting emotions are conveyed as matter-of-fact here, indicating the many nuances of emotions, normalizing a situation that may have otherwise been considered catastrophic by most.


The struggles of fitting in has also been sensitively balanced with Henny realizing her strengths that allowed her to have a sense of purpose and direction. I’ve always enjoyed picturebooks that deal quite effectively with peculiarities and oddities. I particularly enjoyed how sparse the text is and the white background allowing the eyes to rest on blank spaces. Overall, I thought that the narrative was effective in conveying the message of embracing oddness and seeking validation not from others, but from what one is capable of doing, and doing it well.

Three Bears In A BoatIMG_7002

Written and Illustrated by: David Soman
Published by: Dial Books For Young Readers, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Dash, Theo, and Charlie are sibling bears who lived by the sea. One day, as their mother was out, the three bears attempted to get the honey that is a little out-of-reach (for a good reason evidently) and accidentally broke their mother’s beautiful blue seashell in the process. Filled with guilt and anxiety (their mother is, after all, a towering hulk of a bear), the three bear-lings sought to make things right by going on a quest to find a replacement for their mother’s shell.


I was heartened by how thoughtful these three bears are as they were filled with worry about their mother’s feelings. Their actions do not seem driven so much by fear but more out of anxiety borne out of disappointing their mother. Their journey allowed them to meet various bears of different predilections, some were helpful in giving them suggestions on where to find a beautiful blue shell, others were not.


Their quest also took them various places – revealing their strengths and their fears. I loved how Charlie was particularly brave and how Charlie here is a she-bear with an orange flowing scarf that looks quite fetching on her.


I was awed by David Soman’s art. This is my first Soman picturebook and I am amazed by how luminous the watercolour drawings are – ranging from this placid glittering sea to one that portray turbulent blues.


Whether Dash, Charlie, and Theo find a replacement for their mother’s porcelain blue shell, I shall leave for you to discover. When I finished reading this picturebook, there is a fullness in my heart that made me exclaim out loud: this is what a picturebook should be like. Definitely a book that is bound to be a favourite in a lot of households – with a narrative that bears repeating and illustrations that a reader can literally drown in.



Reading Challenge Update: 297-298 (25)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “Sibling Bears and Chicken Henny: Soman’s “Three Bears in a Boat” and Stanton’s “Henny”

  1. GREAT selections, Myra 😀


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