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    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Teresa's Book Reviews: Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same

    I first fell in love with Sloane Tanen’s work when I read the caption above a photo with a little chicken sitting on a swing set and peering around the playground: “Samantha looked around the playground in amazement. Her mother had been right. She really WAS the smartest and the prettiest.” Now I ask you--has there ever been a more apt mascot for me and some of my equally ambitious writer friends?

    If you thought you had to give up picture books when you graduated from second grade, have I got a treat for you! Writer Sloane Tanen and photographer Stefan Hagen take those tiny little stuffed yellow chicks you can find at Easter and put them in wickedly funny scenarios in gorgeously detailed dioramas. The first book in the series BITTER WITH BAGGAGE SEEKS SAME: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SOME CHICKENS beautifully captures two qualities--they’re both bitter and sunny-natured. And who can't relate to adorable little spoiled tyrant Coco who is rarely seen without her tiara and dreams “that one day she would grow up to be a benevolent queen...or a supermodel.”

    The second book in the series--GOING FOR THE BRONZE: STILL BITTER, MORE BAGGAGE is equally hilarious. One of my favorite pages shows two chickens peering over the side of the Titanic while a chicken floats beneath them and one of them comments, “I don’t know, the last thing he said was something about being king of the world and then I may have accidentally pushed him.” No one is safe from the satire including Charles and Camilla, American Idol, and Hooters. And the photographs are so detailed that you can spend hours just noticing things in the background.

    I should warn you that, due to a wee bit of naughty language, these picture books are for adults only, but Sloane Tanen has also written a children’s book called COCO ALL YEAR ROUND. If you want your child to develop a deliciously dark and dysfunctional sense of humor right along with you, you can read them rhymes featuring the adorable Coco like “I walk down the street with my whole Girl Scout troop. It would have been fun had I not slipped in poop.” (I’ll spare you a description of the illustration on this one.)