The Chickens Build A Wall

A few days ago I was shifting and shuffling through the picture books in the low shelves under the huge glass wall in my library. It is amazing how a bookshelf can get joyously messed up by a small pack of first graders just by turning my back. I often think of these moments as karmic payback for all the messes I made as a child and never cleaned up. As I was striving to bring a little more calm and structure to this section, out popped a book that landed on the floor. Maybe I was a little too zealous in pushing the books upright with a rather lame bookend. Maybe the universe was speaking and striving to tell me something.

The book was The Chickens Build A Wall by the talented French guy, Jean-Francois Dumont. As a librarian it is always interesting to rediscover a book. It got me thinking about other chicken books and another bookstore visiting author from over twenty years ago and her book Minerva Louise. Chickens make great characters; they have a sweet sensability mixed in with dramatic moments of anxiety. It is funny how this 2011 book could offer some wise insight to folks in 2017. In the book the chickens are having shall we say a bit of a “pause” over the arrival of a hedgehog. In order to make themselves feel better, they decide to build a wall. I won’t give away the ending, but I am confident in your brilliant inferring skills. I wonder if in France the word chicken has the same conotation, to be afraid, as it does in the United States? (hello A.D. resident of France – are you reading this? you have your mission).

The only type of walls I am fond of are glass walls in my library. I am grateful for the huge glass walls that let in tons of natural light from outside, even though I am in the center of the building. I really crave the natural light, when I visit other schools with smaller windows. Before working here I never really appreciated the positive impact of light. Maybe we should all just work outside and go inside for an occasional nap. Naps – that is what I miss most about college.



  1. It is interesting to think through books that use chickens as characters; “Click, Clack, Moo”, “Hurry, Hurry!”, and “Chips and Salsa”. And when I think of walls the musical “Fantasticks” comes to mind. I would love to see your library with the wall of glass and all of the light!


  2. The subtext here is unbelievably apropos, John. Just the title alone ought to hit home with folks following what is going on in the world. Wonderful piece. Thanks for sharing it!


  3. I enjoyed a lot of things about your slice. For starters, the personality in the image of the books mixed up, the way your voice speak so honestly to the reader, and the way you shift gears so humorously. I’m not a fan of walls either and naps are the best.


  4. I think I have read that book … but I may need to reread it to remember more! I love when books fall into our hands. I believe there is a reason. I’m curious if you’ll do more with the gift of this fallen book … So happy you wrote today!


  5. In French, chicken can have the same connotation, but not with quite the wide variety of usage as we have in English. It’s not used as a verb, for example. But to call someone a scaredy-cat (hmmm another interesting animal expression!) you can say: es-tu une poule mouillĂ©e? Are you a wet chicken??


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