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Three Hens and a Peacock Paperback – February 1, 2014
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"A delightful choice for schools and public libraries…" --School Library Journal
"What might have been an ordinary be-yourself story is enhanced by Laminack's surprisingly thoughtful storytelling…" --Publishers Weekly
"Laminack's storytelling is brisk, and Cole's cartoon illustrations are vivid and comical…" --Booklist
About the Author
Lester L. Laminack is a specialist in children's literacy and professor emeritus at Western Carolina University. Laminack has written numerous books and articles for educators and is a familiar speaker at professional meetings and reading associations nationwide.
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I've enjoyed THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK when it first released in 2011, but I wanted to look at the book again after reading some Amazon reviews that I thought were not only misguided but unfair to the collective work that Lester Laminack has been doing. With full disclosure, Lester is someone I consider a mentor--a friend, if you will--and you could hold me to a certain amount of bias in writing a review that not only serves as a response to other reviews but as another way of looking at a picture book that is probably most transparent in its message. And while those looking to see something in THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK are few (and as few as the other contributions they have made to the Amazon or the overall reading community found within the social media platforms), the negative reviews of THE HENS AND A PEACOCK are misinformed. As Amazon has not its way clear to remove these reviews, those who have enjoyed and have used Laminack's title should respond and return to the praise that began the thread of reviews here at Amazon. At Goodreads, I see nothing but praise for Laminack's work.
Lester Laminack has worked tirelessly to provide resources to elementary, middle, and secondary teachers with his professional development texts. I'm proud to say that I have all of these in Room 407. I am really looking forward to seeing Lester's new work with the subject of bullying that is due to release in the fall of 2012. If one were to spend a moment with Lester or hear him deliver a keynote address, they would quickly find that likening THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK to "poison" is as insipid as referencing Virginia Lee Burton's THE LITTLE HOUSE as an early comment on the Occupy Movement or Russell Hoban's BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCIS as an attempt to suggest, subliminally, a mandate regarding--pre-Mayor Bloomberg--dietary intake of a community. We can find these ludicrous interpretations because "deep readers" can find multiple lenses through which to look into a book or a story.
THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK demonstrates how words and images come together to create a sense of comic timing. The first example of this approach is when we first see the peacock standing alone on the page under the arched words ". . .that peacock showed up." Another example, with the hens as feature, finds the three stacked on top of one another doing their very best to attract the attention of the cars passing by. What we really have--for secondary readers in a writer's workshop model--is an example of the classic comparison and contrast set-up. This one does this, while the other does that. Helping younger readers think about author/illustrator intent and design (as well as drawing inferences), lead learners may ask students to consider when characters appear on the page by themselves. Readers may be invited to think about why the author and illustrator decided upon this approach.
The peacock's job looks so easy. The hens make the comment that they do all of the work. It's the wisdom of the hound dog (and here too is another lesson in use and design--ask younger readers why those words are italicized in what the hound dog says) that brings both parties to a deeper understanding of personal and collective contribution. I've worked with two gifted and talented students over the past two years who have been "tagged" by their peers as being "perfect" and as doing everything "perfectly." Listening in from outside the fishbowl, it was often difficult to determine when a comment that might look like praise on paper became a sort of attack when the words hit the air. A kind of bullying we might be missing is when students use praise in a sort of attempt to either one, find comfort with their own level of performance, and, two, attempt to level the playing field by clipping the feathers of another. I can tell you from what I observed of these two young ladies over the past two years, that their position of "perfect" was not something they had selected for themselves nor was it a comfortable position in which to find themselves. The continual pushing and pulling upon these two has been the best instance of tenacity I have seen a student exhibit in my experiences.
Lester Laminack encourages readers with THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK to consider not only the perceived strengths of others in a group, but to celebrate their own contribution to the daily successes of a community. It's very easy to undersell our own talents and contributions sometimes, but learning communities that continue to promote group work and synthesis are what I consider to be the best approach to helping students to see the value of their own contribution. This is the reflection piece that needs to be a part of any group project or small group meeting. These reflection pieces help to put words to these feelings that often go unspoken. This is an important lesson within learning communities. Each student must feel that they have something to offer to the overall community. This is probably where classroom management breaks down the most.
For secondary readers, look to the archetypes within the book vs. the anthropomorphism. One of the qualities of anthropomorphism and personification is that the archetypes are presented in a package that is removed from our "human-ness," so that we can see how these operate without our own intrusions. When a peacock is dropped off at Tucker Farm, we see the classic "Innocent/Orphan" archetype in action. The Hens give us the classic presentation of "Creator/Destroyer" traits. The hound dog given to moments of great wisdom coupled with moments of leisure and repose present the "Sage/Fool" pairing. Now. See? I am doing the same thing that the reviews I am responding to have done. . .but this is the point: we can see what we want to see, but in the end, Lester Laminack's body of work and ideals don't seem to warrant the claims of other reviews that wish to reduce his work to something meant to mislead younger readers.