Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken written by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrations by Jill Pinkwater

Feiwel and Friends, 2010

Recommended for ages 4 to 7

There are several elements in children’s books that I adore.  As anyone who has worked with me knows, chickens are high on that list.  I also like me a handsome pigeon (my grandfather raised racing pigeons in our backyard.)  So, too, am I a sucker for slightly surreal plotlines and unlikely heroes.  Finally, although not directly related to children’s literature, there is my tendency to toss in Yiddish phrases into casual conversations whenever possible (thank you, Grandma Zoe.)  It is no wonder, then, that I received Beautiful Yetta with awe, admiration, and a tear in my eye.

A drop-dead gorgeous chicken heroine? Check.  A couple of rakish city pigeons?  Check.  An appearance by the famed wild parrots of Brooklyn?  Check.  A loving tale about diversity and acceptance?  You betcha.

Yetta, beautiful Yetta, is a country chicken on her way to becoming a Friday night meal, when she escapes from her crate and onto the streets of Brooklyn.  The looming buildings, the lack of grass, the rude strangers- everything is so unfamiliar to dear Yetta.  And yet, despite being so far from home and alone, Yetta is more than a pretty beak.  She soldiers on, befriending a wild green parrot named Eduardo, even saving him from a stinky cat.  Unlike the bad-mannered rats and pigeons she encounters, the parrots welcome Yetta with open wings.  They appreciate her bravery, her uncanny beauty and welcome her into their family.

Daniel Pinkwater includes the Yiddish translation (as well as a phonetic spelling) for Yetta’s dialogue.  Later, he includes a Spanish translation (and accompanying phonetic spelling) for Eduardo’s text.  Children (and their grownup readers) will have fun exclaming “geVAHLT!” and “fahrSHTUNkehneh” with appropriate zeal.

Jill Pinkwater uses bold colors and shapes in a vibrant naive style that reflects Yetta’s own innocence and excitment about the great big world.  We are treated to a particularly striking composition from the baffled chicken’s point of view as she gazes up at towering brownstones.

Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken is a funny, sophisticated, strange, and delightfully original picture book.  It is, simply put, a shtik naches!



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