Maeve Visser Knoth: Tomie DePaola and his chicken feet

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tomie DePaola and his chicken feet

Tomie DePaola writes and illustrates different kinds of picture books but many are based on episodes from his own childhood. Since the book Tom was published in 1993 I have been curious about chicken feet. In the very funny picture book Tommy is given chicken feet by his grandfather, a butcher. Tommy scrubs the feet, paints the claws with red polish, and brings them to school to scare his classmates and teacher. Tommy loves the feet since he can pull a tendon on each and make the toes open and close.

The image of those scrubbed chicken feet has stayed with me and I have been on an on-and-off search for chicken feet ever since. How fun, I thought, to read the book and pull out a pair of real chicken feet to show the listeners. None of the grocery stores in our suburb have any spare chicken feet...

And of course Tomie DePaola has written another book featuring chicken feet Watch Out For Chicken Feet in Your Soup so my storyhour could be even more complete if only I could find chicken feet.

Well, this summer my children raised meat chickens for 4H and we were lucky enough to end the summer with eight chicken feet (and one spare turkey foot) wrapped in plastic in our freezer. Yesterday, with the permission of the 2nd and 3rd grade teachers who will soon be teaching an anatomy unit, I lived my dream. I read both of Tomie DePaola's picture books three times to three different classrooms full of kids. I showed the children how a chicken foot really does go "garunge-runge" when you pull the right tendon, just like DePaola describes. It was fabulous. I was right, the kids loved the chicken feet and won't soon forget that writing stories about things you know can be as exciting as writing completely from your imagination!

Now I can start fielding questions from the parents..."You showed what during library time???"


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