7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #182: Featuring Béatrice Rodriguez

h1 August 29th, 2010 by jules

{Note: Click on this image to see the entire spread from which it comes.}

When I did this…oh, about a month ago, I guess it was, I found myself telling those in attendance about a lot of wordless picture books. I realized that a lot of my favorite titles from this year (as well as in general) are true “picture books”: wordless gems. This morning, I’m featuring one of those — and one of my favorite picture books of 2010.

I first read about Béatrice Rodriguez’s The Chicken Thief (Enchanted Lion Books, May 2010)—originally published in France in 2005 as Le Voleur de Poule—at Betsy’s blog, in which she described it as “one of the lovelier picture book offerings of the year,” adding that it’s charming and very French and is an “epic cross-country chase, {which} reads like The Bremen Town Musicians meets The Fugitive.” The wonderful Paula at Pink Me also covered this one:

I had to check the copyright date on this suave wordless sliver of an epic tale over and over again. You see, like many French things…The Chicken Thief, with its timeless one-joke story, well-crafted loosey-goosey pen and ink and watercolor art, and enigmatic title… could have come from any age.

A lot of French pen and ink illustration (and Belgian) has a gestural quality, a breezy confidence that works particularly well with energetic stories…And this story, being wordless, is told entirely through action and expression. The arc of a smile is just a tiny line, 5 millimeters, but in that 5-millimeter line, Béatrice Rodriguez tells us whether her character is smiling in triumph or embarrassment, with joy or with anticipation.

The story, encased in a small, rather horizontal, panoramic book (perfect for a chase narrative, as Betsy points out), is all about a fox, who steals a chicken from a rag-tag family of forest creatures in their country home. The bear, rabbit, and rooster of this home set off in hot pursuit of the chicken and fox, but—as you can see at the top of this post in the cutting from the below spread—the chicken becomes rather fond of the fox. And, well, the spreads featured below (you REALLY must super-size them by clicking on each image, since they post here so tiny) give you an indication of where the story heads…

…and, no, I just cannot give away the ending, though it’s clear that this becomes a tale of, as the Publishers Weekly review calls it, “romantic intrigue.” Best thing to do, too, when you peruse your own library or bookstore copy? Check out the facial expressions of each animal, particularly that poor, deserted, SCORNED rooster.

Delightful. Funny. Sweet, but not syrupy so. Don’t miss this one.

THE CHICKEN THIEF. First American Edition copyright 2010 by Béatrice Rodriguez. Published by Enchanted Lion Books, New York.

As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.

* * * * * * *

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1). I figured out I get to attend this in October, after all.

2). Brand-new music this week from Sam, including a cover of Tom Waits’ “Green Grass,” which just SLAYS me right smack dab in half.

3). Reading a handful of great novels at one time to my girls. Well, this means the six-year-old, and the four-year-old just occasionally decides to stop jumping around like a monkey on crack in order to listen to bits here and there.

I am particularly moved when my six-year-old is particularly moved by a passage. I just had to let her cry the other day—as in, a twenty-minute pause—when we said goodbye to a character she didn’t want to say farewell to. (And crying is much easier when you’re cuddled up with mama.)

4). Speaking of the girls, here’s a missed kick from last week: In their Saturday art class, they let music guide their paintings. Their art teacher told them to let the melodies inform their brush strokes. First, they painted to Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”; then, Pachelbel’s Canon, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, and John Coltrane’s “Bessie’s Blues.” How much do I love this idea? A lot.

5). Collaborating with the wonderful Cristiana at The Tea Box way over in Italy! More to come on that…

6). Roberta Flack’s “Do What You Gotta Do.”

7). I received an unsolicited review copy of this novel by Lesley M.M. Blume, which gets released next month:

…and my girls and I are loving it, especially the six-year-old, who is obsessed with reading about mythical creatures (though, she told me last week, magic isn’t real — go figure). Maybe I’ll say more about this book later. And, lordy, the review copy came with a limited-edition illustration from the book by David Foote. Okay, wait. Now that I’ve visited his site by linking to it there, I’ve discovered this, which gives you a peek at a good deal of Foote’s art work:


What are YOUR kicks this week? Oh! And here:

…in case you want to go paint. Also: That’s for Little Willow to swing to.

19 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #182: Featuring Béatrice Rodriguez”

  1. Oh what a delight the illustrations are in The Chicken Thief. They remind me of the Steig books.
    Jules, I love the idea of painting to music. And such great choices.
    Depite the shadowy cloud about news of a former student who ended his life(he was 24), I had a few kicks this week.
    One was that I reconnected with one of his sisters on FB.
    I also won a SKYPE visit from Mitali Perkins.
    But perhaps the biggest kick was taking my grand-daughter to lunch and then shopping for a kindergarten outfit. This is a traidiont that my grandmother and aunt had with me. My aunt continued it until I got married. Despite the sad state of the clothing industry trying to make 5 YO look older, we had fun. Can’t wait until next year.
    Going for a morning walk. Have a great week.

  2. Jone, glad you were able to re-connect with that student’s sister. Such sad news. His loss.

    Congrats on your Mitali score! Enjoy that walk.

  3. Good morning!

    Béatrice Rodriguez’s work here reminds me a lot of the New Yorker covers by Jean-Jacques Sempé. A typical cover might feature something like, I don’t know… a nighttime cityscape, with only two tiny windows illuminated, in one of which is a woman playing a violin and in the other one — immediately upstairs — is a man with (yes!) one of those little 5mm smiles on his face. Something like grand-scale miniaturism. (Here‘s a recent one, in more of an outdoorsy vein. No facial expression visible, though, and probably none needed.)

    The image you opened with, Jules, is rather affecting — even without blowing it up to see what’s going on in the distance and on the ground. I did have to laugh at the one of the fox and chicken playing chess in a cave, though, especially because of the way the rooster looks while his two companions are struggling. Sort of, “Okay, when you two are done clowning around…”

    This looks like a wonderful book.

    I remember, sort of, when Cristiana first popped in in a comments thread here… a quick search tells me it was in spring of 2009. (Also tells me that she and Jill started visiting here about the same time. A miraculous convergence, hmm?) Can’t wait to hear what the two of you have cooked up!

    Thanks for posting the “In the Mood” video. If I had a trombone here, I’d have tossed it. (And I thought it a particularly elegant touch that your kicks opened and closed with Big-Band images.)

    Jone, so sorry to hear about the former student. But loved the image of you and your grand-girl shopping for school clothes together!


    1. Jules, your vernacular of excited approval is like no one else’s. You’ve sometimes professed embarrassment about the, umm, hyperbole. But I know of no one else who could say something like “[Experience X] just SLAYS me right smack dab in half,” convincingly, and do it in post after post. (The gods help the kid-lit industry if you ever become jaded and bitter, and turn that knack for phrase-making to bad reviews!)

    2. Speaking of phrase-making: I finally started reading Tender Morsels and must say that the prologue alone left me astonished at the caliber of writing. Reading it reminded me of handling a heavy-gauge rope of coarse prickly fiber with my eyes closed, like, By God, I don’t know what this is that I’m handling, but I am definitely handling something I’ll remember for a long time…!

    3. Too long a story to tell here, but this week I suddenly found myself thinking of an Afghani exchange student I met my freshman year in high school. It surprised me I remembered his name. It surprised me even more that I remembered how to spell it — almost! — as I found out when I learned that he eventually came back to the US just a few years later, has been here ever since, and now teaches at a community college in (I think) the Pacific NW.

    4. Aspirin (ibuprofen, etc.). Such a stupid thing, on the face of it. Except… not.

    5. Have you seen the hopping-bunny-contest video?

    6. Or the photos illustrating the technique of “forced perspective photography”?

    7. Grilled fresh-pineapple slices.

    Have a great week, everybody!

  4. Hello all,

    What is it about chickens that are so irresistible to me? “Romantic intrigue” involving a chicken and a fox is reason enough to buy this one, not to mention the soft blues and greens and gauzy hues.

    Jules, you know how much I share your Sam enthusiasm over the new EP (see my kick #1). This has been a fantastic Sam year, and I wish it would never end.

    Jone, so sorry about your former student, but glad you could celebrate life through the joy of being with your grand-daughter.
    JES, what a spot-on connection between Rodriguez’s work and Sempe — they must be twins, separated at birth. I agree with your Jules kick — you are both master phrase-makers. LOVE the bunny show jumping — I had no idea they could be trained like that! My favorite was that last little tentative rabbit, who stopped in front of every hurdle (probably not the correct name for the jumps, but the best I can do) before making the attempt to jump over the top, knocking a few sticks down as he went. Very endearing.

    My kicks:
    1) Sam’s 5th and final (heavy sigh) EP. I am in awe of her musical gifts.
    2) Celebrating my boyfriend’s B-day on Tuesday with a nice Italian dinner.
    3) Having a relaxing cup of matcha green tea (very difficult to find, and very good for you) at a new tea shop in S.F. with a friend last Sunday.
    4) Meeting new people at a party yesterday celebrating the unveiling of our friends’ new wine “closet”. More like a wine museum.
    5) Receiving a late B-day gift of a spa certificate from a friend. Can’t wait to use it.
    6) This impressive list of books that Art Garfunkel has read over the years: http://www.artgarfunkel.com/library/list1.html
    7) Centeredness

    Have a happy first week of fall, everyone!

  5. Jes, love those photos. Amazing. Happy, bday, Jill. Where is everyone?

  6. Jone, I was wondering about the sound of the chirping crickets, too. I just bet everyone else is out somewhere making the most of the last few days of August, leaving the rest of us here to wander around dusting shelves, oiling hinges, and — bwaaahaha! — planning a party in their absence…!

    Okay, Jill, I want to know about this “centeredness” of which you speak. How do you find it?

    And for anyone who’d also like to see that FABULOUS list of Art Garfunkel’s reading for 40+ years, note that the link above is just slightly off. It actually includes the lowercase-“l” at the very end of that kick: http://www.artgarfunkel.com/library/list1.html.

  7. JES, thank you for fixing my link — not sure how that happened. I thought I was fairly well-read, until perusing that list.

    As for centeredness, I tend to allow my inner critic to chatter in my ear for lengthy periods, sometimes resulting in a very unfocused and unproductive day. It was recently suggested to me by a friend that I just sit still for 5 minutes, close my eyes, breathe (I was amazed at how infrequently I do this on a deep level during the day), and just be grateful and quiet. I know that sounds terribly woo-hoo and New Age-y and possibly overly simplistic, but I suspended my own disbelief and felt a pretty amazing sense of calmness — enough to make this a daily habit.

    And if that sounds too weird, blame it on the fact that I am from California. But it worked for me.

    Let me know what time the party starts — I’ll bring chips and dip.

  8. oh, look at that sweet fox and chicken! i’ve got to find out how that ends.

    jone, that is some sad news indeed. but i am also enamored of you taking on the school shopping tradition.

    jill, thanks for the centeredness lesson. i’m totally going to try it. my critic is particularly nasty sometimes.

    JES, those photos ROCK! thanks for the link. i rely on ibuprofin a lot myself, so i dig that kick too.

    here’s some from my week:

    1* a lot of my friends have august birthdays, so a bunch of us (and some non-b’day friends too) went to this self-serve wine bar to celebrate together and try to get other people to buy us drinks.

    2* a sweet belated b’day card from WATAT’s adrienne, and another one from my mom that plays the “Day-o” song. it’s pretty much stuck in my head forever now.

    3* i finally got a straightening iron for my hair. it used to be mostly straight on its own, but just in the last few years it’s like it’s lost its mind. i kept getting this stupid betty boop-like swoopy curl on the side of my head. but no more! this thing is da bomb.

    4* i used my b’day money to buy some cute new flats, AND those boots i ordered came in too. seriously, is there anything better than new shoes?

    5* i had a huge YARD SALE with the ex today, and it was great! we had perfect weather, lots of foot traffic, and sold almost everything.

    6* also, it made me realize anew that i love my neighborhood. i know a bunch of my neighbors from work, and the ones i don’t know seem to be nice too. plus, lots of cute kids.

    7* and now i have money for even more shoes!

  9. Well, folks. Lordy, if my OWN blog-reading is any indication of visitors here to 7-Imp (which I know it isn’t necessarily), I’m not surprised. 2010 has been so busy, and blog-reading has come last for me. Sigh. I miss people. Anyway, I just assume folks are busy. Or tired. Or watching the Emmys? It’s great to have you three here, though. We’re the Four Js.

    John, ah thanks. Glad my hyperbole doesn’t wear on folks. Love those photos, especially the soccer sun. And your description of Tender Morsels? PERFECT.

    Oh, and both Art links seem to be broken?? Let me try: http://www.artgarfunkel.com/library/list1.html.

    Jill, glad the wine partaaay was good and fun. And what is matcha tea?

  10. Jill, did I get the link right, by the way?

  11. It’s an eisha-sighting! Sorry. Missed you earlier. Spam decided to eat your kicks for a snack. With coffee. And biscotti.

    Yard sale. You’d think I wouldn’t be jealous, but I am. I need to do that but don’t have time and am not that organized. Glad it went well.

    Have I mentioned before your shoe collection probably rivals that of Imelda Marcos?

  12. This last week included the following kicks:
    1) Seeing and hearing the incredible singer/songwriter Lucy Woodward live in concert.
    2) Monday: Auditioning for a super-small (a line or two) role in a short film (We’ll call it A) and booking it within minutes of entry. We shoot in September or October.
    3) Friday: Auditioning for a role in another short film (We’ll call it B); Tonight: Getting the call – I was offered the role! We shoot in September.
    4) Saturday: Asked to be in yet another short film (C), just as a student in a classroom, no lines – then, during the shoot today, I was given a line. Woot!
    5) Attending a wonderful seminar that was interactive, energetic, and truly lovely.
    6) Getting my voice back. Earning it. Stacking it in place, piece by piece.
    7) Taking care.

    Note: All of these opportunities arose AFTER I turned down some other things which wouldn’t have been good for me. I considered my options, trusted my gut, and said no when it was appropriate – and, unexpectedly, then new doors opened which led to better things. I love that. I love that so much.

    Book recommendation of the week: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. I read passages of this book out loud while I was walking and reading outside. I have had this book in my to-read pile for years, and not only am I happy to have read it, but I read it at exactly the right time. Exactly. This happens to me sometimes with books. Thank you, Peter Cameron. Thank you, James Sveck.

    Pssst… Are you ready to play the Julian Game? Visit Adele, Vinnie & I hope you like the site! http://www.thejuliangame.com for the book THE JULIAN GAME by Adele Griffin.

    Also, I would really appreciate any or all of you (and your family members, students, or patrons, especially those in their teens) responding to this survey for my amazing sister, the jewelry designer, who needs some feedback as she plans her new line. Thank you! 🙂

    Welcome, Béatrice Rodriguez! I’ll have to put The Chicken Thief on my to-read list. Foxes are adorable.

    Jules: I’m so glad that you will be attending that. Hugs to your munchkins. Which book/character moved her so? I love the song In the Mood by Glenn Miller. I wrote that BEFORE I got to the end of your post. Yes! Thank you. 🙂 I want to read Lesley M.M. Blume’s next book, as I’ve enjoyed all of her past works…plus this one has fairies!

    Jone: I am so sorry for your loss. Glad that you got to continue the tradition with your granddaughter. Thanks for helping keep her looking her proper age.

    JES: When forced perspective photography works, it works.

    Jill: Hurrah for friends old and new. Happy birthday to your boyfriend.

    eisha: Sounds like you had a good birthday MONTH, as you deserve. 🙂

  13. Oh my, but I will be acquiring The Chicken Thief very very soon. I have a feeling my New Orleans cop who feeds chickens needs a copy. Love the mood of the illustrations.

    Jules, what lucky girls you have to have a mama who pauses and cuddles for the tears over characters that say goodbye. Such a beautiful, touching image.

    Jone, so sorry for your loss. The clothes-shopping tradition sounds lovely and fun.

    JES, thanks as usual for such great links. I too am a HUGE fan of ibuprofen, especially this weekend, as you’ll see from my kicks.

    Jill, spa certificates and an italian dinner make for a wonderful week!

    Eisha – that self-serve wine bar sounds fun (and dangerous). And you can never have too many shoes!

    LW – Congrats! And thanks for the book recommendation, Someday This Pain May Be Useful to You sounds well worth checking out.

    My kicks:
    1) I ran in my first every relay race – a 197 mile relay race with a team from work – Hood to Coast – Friday/Saturday.
    2) Running through farmlands while the sun was setting amazing pinks and oranges across the clouds, then looking back at Mt Hood bathed in pinks and blues is something I’ll never forget.
    3) Running my second leg at 5:15 am uphill with the moonlight bathing the few open meadows and trees made me feel like I was connecting with nature in a very private, quiet, soulful way. It was so peaceful and beautiful.
    3.Getting to Seaside, Oregon and the finish line a whole 52 minutes ahead of schedule, showers and beer never looked so good!
    4. Got a manicure Friday morning before the race. I am sure that’s what helped me run faster.
    5. Watched breaking Up with Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek, they were both so young! It was good, odd, true and sad.
    6.Ibuprofen. Its helping. A lot.
    7. Sleeping in today.

    Have a great week everyone!

  14. Thanks for the link-fixing-fixing, Jules — wonder why that one was so stubborn?

    And Jill, thanks for taking the centeredness question seriously; after I posted it, I thought it might’ve sounded like I was just kidding. I didn’t find your explanation woo-woo and California-ish. In fact I’m looking forward to trying it… just not sure I can close my eyes for 5 minutes without falling asleep. I guess it doesn’t count if one strives for centeredness only when it’s bedtime, huh? 🙂


    LW: So glad your voice is back, or on its way! And now that you’ve assigned letters to upcoming productions, future kicks lists from you can, I guess, become even pithier and more mysterious than usual (although this week’s sprawls comfortably on the swooning sofa against the wall)!

  15. The Chicken Thief looks amazing and fun, I can’t wait until that comes in at the library.

    My kicks:
    1. Finishing my current rough draft! I’ve been working on a MG fantasy all summer, and it’s nice to finally have the story down, even if it’s going to change a lot.
    2. Getting the apartment cleaned up again. Amazing what a clean room will do for the mood.
    3. Starting school again today. This is my last year in college, and I can’t believe it’s almost over! Good thing my classes this semester sound great.
    4. Eating ice cream for the first time in a month. So. Good.
    5. The weather was actually cool today! So happy the heat of the summer is winding down.
    6. Getting lots of packages in the mail.
    7. Of course, returning back to 7-imp! I’ve been too busy to read for a little while, but I’m happy to be back and reading. 🙂

  16. Oh thanks for posting this! I have fallen in love with Chicken Thief this year, and so glad you posted about it. I love the remarks you made about simplicity of line and color and how these gestural drawings can say so much. I really appreciate this style of art SO much!

    Thanks again for another WONDERFUL post!

  17. Little Willow, congrats on all the roles! Glad your voice is better, too. To answer your question, the book is The Underneath. I know, I know. Not really for a six-year-old, but well…Piper loves it. She’s an advanced reader and listener (when it comes to read-alouds, that is), and so it works for her. (I hope “advanced” doesn’t sound snooty — best word I can think of now.) And reading it with mama as a guide works, too. So, she was super bummed when Puck’s mama drowned in the water after mean ‘ol Gar Face threw them in.

    Rachel, you relay-race champ, you. Congrats! I’m glad you slept in on Sunday.

    Debbie, welcome back, and good luck with the semester. And isn’t #2 so true? I struggle with that now. I have to get rid of lots of books before I drown in them.

    Sarah Jane, glad you like it.

  18. […] ago, I mentioned (here) reading and loving this book, Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins, and Other Nasties: A Practical […]

  19. […] book and laugh a bit); Béatrice Rodriguez (Fox and Hen Together, her sequel to last year’s The Chicken Thief); Arthur Geisert (Ice); Craig Frazier (Bee & Bird); and French author/illustrator Hervé […]

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