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The Adventure of Attila the Hen

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S: The Adventure of Attila the Hen

FC: The Adventure of Attila the Hen | By Donna DeDiemar Illustrated by Cassidy Kanner Gomes

1: Cassidy Kanner Gomes and her dad have a Saturday ritual: in the afternoon, she goes for a bike ride and Allen strolls the same route. And that is how it happened that, one day, I met Cassidy. The thing is, Cassidy likes chickens, so my house is a pretty logical one to include in this weekly routine. It has chickens in the front yard, and some pretty wonderful chickens at that. On this particular day in March or April or May, Cassidy, with dad in tow, was on her way home from something-or-other, and of course took the little jog necessary to visit the 'girls.' I happened to be in the yard at the time, so the three of us struck up a conversation. Cassidy had some artwork in hand and eagerly showed it to me. I thought it was wonderful, so I told her about the story of Attila the Hen and said she should think about maybe drawing pictures for it. I could see some wheels turning in that clever little mind, and maybe a month later, Cassidy and Allen came by to ask for a copy of the story. Apparently she hadn't been able to get the idea of drawing chicken pictures out of her head. And I knew this was it. She was going to give life to my words. In a few weeks Cassidy was back, artwork in hand. This is her book. | 1 | FORWARD

2: 2 | Once upon a time, on a very little street in a very big town, there lived eight fluffy chickens. There were Angie and Emily Chickenson, who were big and red, and could only be told apart by the number of black feathers on their tails. There was Bridget, who had white speckles all over, like freckles, and Popcorn, who was the same color as the caramel popcorn they sold at the county fair every year in August. Agatha was all black, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was all white, and when they played together they looked just like a rolling soccer ball. Elizabeth Taylor was the most beautiful chicken in the whole flock, with shining dappled feathers that must have had at least a million different colors in them. | The Adventure of Attila the Hen | 2

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5: And then there was Attila. Attila not only had the silliest name of all the chickens; she was also the silliest looking. Oh, she had freckles like Bridget, and was part black like Agatha, part white like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and part red, like Angie and Emily. But she had a little tiny comb on the top of her head and an even tinier wattle under her chin. And she was only half the size of the other chickens, even though they were all the same age, so she never could look any of them in the eye when they were clucking at each other. Attila tried really hard to play with all the other chickens, but she was just too small to be noticed very often. And if they did notice her, they picked on her. Sometimes they chased her around the play yard, and sometimes they pecked at her feathers. They were even known to steal carrot tops right out of her beak! | 5

6: 6 | Popcorn pecking at Attila's feathers

7: When it was time for breakfast or dinner, Attila stayed back and let the others eat first. When the flock got special treats, the others pushed Attila out of the way and ate everything without sharing with her. And because Angie and Emily and all the others always got plenty of good food and all their vitamins and minerals, they got bigger and stronger. Their combs started to look like big hats on their heads, and their wattles were like poofy scarves under their chins. But none of this happened to Attila. She just stayed a little chicken with a little comb and a little wattle. And when the other chickens got to be old enough, one by one they started to lay eggs. Angie and Emily were the first to lay. Their eggs were beautiful, a sort of pinky brown, but you couldn't tell one chicken's eggs from the other's since the eggs had no black tail feathers on them. Agatha was the next to lay, and then Bridget, who laid the biggest eggs you ever did see. Elizabeth Taylor laid little brown eggs, and Popcorn and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom laid Easter eggs, which were the prettiest pastel blue and green in the whole world. | 7

8: 8 | Chicka Chicka Boom Boom lays eggs while Attila watches

9: But Attila didn't lay eggs. She was still too small, and she could only watch and sigh as the others went one by one into their laying boxes each day. And when the little girl from down the street came to collect the eggs, Attila had to stand alone in the corner of the play yard because she didn't deserve any of the praise that the little girl gave to the other chickens for providing her family with such a delicious breakfast. | 9

10: 10 | Even though the chickens lived on a very little street in their very big town, they lived in a very beautiful house, and it wasn’t long before people began coming from all over to see their house and to look at them. They liked to strut and fluff their feathers to show how beautiful they were, and sometimes they even sang songs to greet the strangers. They always hoped that they would be rewarded with treats, but even when they weren’t, they liked to show off. Attila never tried to show off. She didn’t like bringing attention to herself, and the lady who took care of all the chickens often had to tell people about her just so she would be noticed. You see, the lady loved Attila, and thought she was just as beautiful and deserved just as much praise as all the other chickens. Attila couldn’t help it that she was small, and she couldn’t help it that she hadn’t started to lay eggs yet. And the lady didn’t think those things mattered anyway, because Attila was sweet and she was gentle and she was kind to the other chickens, even when they weren’t kind back. But Attila wasn’t convinced, and she just kept to herself, always on the other side of the play yard away from the other chickens.

11: One day, in the middle of the summer, when the sun was shining high in the sky, the lady who took care of the chickens decided to work in her garden, right next to the chickens’ play yard. She put on her gardening gloves, but then she took them off again, because she really liked to feel the dirt with her hands, and she could always wash her hands later. She didn’t wear a hat, even though she knew she should, because she liked to feel the sun on the top of her head, and it wasn’t really very hot anyway. But she wore her glasses, because without them she couldn’t see very well. The chickens saw the lady come, and they all began talking to her at once. “Cluck cluck cluck,” they said, and she couldn’t help but wonder what it meant. “Cluck cluck cluck,” they said again, and then she began to understand. They wanted a bigger play yard, so she made one for them. When they said “bock bock bock,” she thought she had made a mistake, but when they said “bock bock bock” again, she knew that now they wanted some corn. So she gave them some, because she loved the chickens and wanted them to be happy. But when she counted heads, thinking there would be eight happy chickens, she only counted seven. That’s when she saw little Attila, sitting by herself in the old play yard, with not a kernel of corn anywhere near her. And the lady’s heart sank to the bottom of her shoes. | 11

12: 12 | Attila is tiny compared to Boom Boom

13: Day after day, when the lady worked in her garden, the chickens would ask to play in the bigger play yard, and the lady let them. They always hoped they would get corn to eat as a special treat, and some days, when the lady was feeling especially nice, she would give it to them. But some days she gave them fruits or vegetables instead, because it was good for them and would help them grow up to be very healthy and strong. And the chickens did grow. They grew so much that they made their food dish swing when they tried to scoot under it. They grew so much that they had to go into or out of their house one chicken at a time, because more than that wouldn’t fit through the door. They grew so much that when they flapped their wings, they barely rose three or four feet off the ground. They grew so they could lay big eggs with strong shells, and so the little girl from down the street would pet them and tell them what wonderful chickens they were every time she came to gather the eggs for her breakfast. But Attila did not grow much, and she wondered if she would ever be as big as the other chickens. | 13

14: 14 | Attila lands on the edge of the wire fence around the big play yard

15: One day in late July, just like on so many other days in the summer, the chickens were enjoying their big play yard and not really paying attention to anything but themselves. The lady was in the garden and would take care of them, so they had no need to worry. Not a one of them noticed that little Attila was actually in the yard with them, and so not a one of them chased her or pecked at her feathers or stole carrot tops from her beak. And Attila was grateful that she was not being picked on. She scratched a shallow hole in the big yard, and took a dust bath, lying down in her hole, stretching out her wings, and rolling back and forth like a rocking chair. When she stood back up from her bath, she spread her wings and flapped them to shake off all the dust. And the funniest thing happened. Because she was such a little hen, Attila rose into the air. Not one foot or two feet. Not even three feet or four feet. She rose almost five feet, and landed right on the edge of the wire fence that enclosed the big play yard. | 15

16: 16 | The other chickens watch Attila from inside the big play yard

17: Attila looked down from on top of the fence, and the other chickens looked up at her. Maybe the others were all prettier or bigger or stronger, but none of them could do what she had just done. So she flapped her wings again and soared down to the ground outside the big play yard, where the lady who took care of the chickens was working. There were so many new things to explore: a little hill with lots of flowers, some rocks with funny seeds that tasted good, places in sun and places in shade, boxes with green things that the lady called lettuce. It was all so exciting! If she moved to the left, the other chickens moved that way, too. If she walked back toward the little play yard, the other chickens also went that way, but always from the other side of their fence. And when she walked away from the play yard, the other chickens could only watch her go, because they could not jump or fly or wish themselves up high enough to get over the wire fence. For quite a while the lady who took care of the chickens let Attila roam in the garden. She didn’t care that the little chicken was eating some of her flowers or digging dirt onto her pathways. It made her happy to see that Attila was curious and brave and having a good time. | 17

18: 18 | Attila enjoys another dust bath

19: When the lady was done with her gardening for the day, she picked Attila up and held her for a little while. She stroked her neck and told her what a good chicken she was and how lucky the lady felt to have her in the flock. Attila only said “buk buk buk,” which meant that she was ready to go back in the play yard with the other chickens. And when the lady put the littlest hen back with the others, Attila held her head up and walked straight past all of them. She dug another shallow hole, and rolled around in it, enjoying her second dust bath of the day. She didn’t make any big boasting clucks or strut around like she was the smartest or best chicken in the flock. She just quietly took her bath, and thought about what a great flying adventure she would have the next day. ©2011 Donna DeDiemar | 19

20: This book is dedicated to the many people who helped make the Albina Ave. chicken co-op a reality: Karyn Newman, who helped and inspired us by sharing information about her own coop, and who provided us with the wonderful chickens we now call 'the girls' Lisa Friedlander, who designed and helped build the coop Tom Roe, who donated the Victorian doors with which we built the house Liz Radcliffe, who allowed us to use part of her front yard Erin and Jeff; Deasy and Kevin; Sheryl, Susannah, and Georgia (the little girl from down the street), who whole-heartedly joined the co-op and made sure that it happened All our marvelous neighbors, who embraced the idea as an adventure instead of as an annoyance And to my wonderful husband, Chris Hamilton, who has endlessly endured my obsession with this project But mostly I thank little Attila, who by her very nature has taught me things I missed in my first 63 years and, ridiculously, continues to serve as an inspiration to me | 20

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  • By: Donna D.
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  • Title: The Adventure of Attila the Hen
  • Children's book about the tiniest of eight chickens in a flock, illustrated by Cassidy Kanner Gomes
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  • Published: over 4 years ago

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