Review: Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl


NOTE: I received a copy of Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl from Tundra Books for the purpose of review.

I’d been introduced to Phoebe Wahl’s art through my bestie’s tumblr. Her “Domestic =/= Submissive. Feminism is Freedom.” post is what caught my attention, providing me with a lightbulb moment. That’s when I started to pay attention to Wahl’s art. Such beautiful, detailed looks at nature, and such celebratory depictions of feminine bodies and femininity. The longer I spent gazing at her art, the easier it was to forget that cities were a thing, let alone the fact that I was a city girl who was sometimes scared of her body.

When I heard that she had a book coming out, I couldn’t wait. A whole picturebook worth of Phoebe Wahl’s art? Yes, please! And I wasn’t disappointed. Sonya’s Chickens was (by some happy coincidence) delivered to my apartment a mere hour before I left for my trip to India and, of course, I stuffed it into my carry-on. Never have I begun such a long journey with such delight.

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Sonya is a small girl with a rather large responsibility: her father gives her three chicks to care for and raise. Fortunately, Sonya is the picture of determination. She decides to be her chicks’ care-giver and performs the role of mama hen with dedication and love. In due time, one of the chickens has even given an egg and Sonya is grateful and proud.

The time comes, however, when Sonya learns that no matter how hard she works, she cannot control everything.

One night, she checks on the coop and finds only two chickens. What follows is a gentle conversation about some of life’s harsher truths and a peek into the way every life– and death– is connected.

While the story is incredibly well crafted (not at all didactic, and rather sweet considering the main theme), the illustrations outshine most everything. They are lush and dark when they need to show the vastness of Sonya’s world. They are bright and warm when they depict Sonya’s personality. And they reflect the atmosphere created by the text perfectly: reality in all its complexity. Wahl’s style so accurately captures the whimsy of everyday life.

This mindful blending of fantasy and reality is present on every page and every detail. I was pleased to note that the book design capitalizes on Wahl’s art, ensuring that the dust-jacket doubles as a large spread, and that the end papers carry details from the story. While reading, you get this sense of not wanting to tear your eyes away from the page you’re on, but also wanting to see what beauty the next page holds. It’s a struggle that ends unhappily on the last page, at which point you have no choice but to turn back to the beginning and start sighing over the pictures all over again. A lovely book to behold and to read. Recommended. :)


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