Cover image for Souperchicken
Auch, Mary Jane.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Holiday House, [2003]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
When Henrietta becomes the first chicken in her coop to learn how to read, she uses her skills to save her aunties from becoming chicken soup.
Reading Level:
300 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.0 0.5 67827.

Reading Counts RC K-2 2.9 2 Quiz: 33359 Guided reading level: L.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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When Henrietta becomes the first chicken in her coop to learn how to read, she uses her skills to save her aunties from becoming chicken soup.

Author Notes

As a child, Mary Jane Auch loved books and read constantly. Her interest in drawing began as a child and continued through high school. She went on to become an art major at Skidmore College. After graduation, Auch went for New York City, but after a year of designing prints for men's pajamas, she decided she wanted to do something more meaningful with her life. She enrolled in the Occupational Therapy program at Columbia University, and worked for some years in a children's hospital near Hartford, Connecticut.

Eventually, Auch began illustrating for Pennywhistle Press, a national children's newspaper, which led to an interest in illustrating children's books. In the summer of 1984, Auch took a week-long children's writing conference on Cape Cod. Auch finally knew that she wanted to a writer when an instructor told her that sometimes artists find they can paint better pictures with words.

She began sending manuscripts to publishers, writing four novels before she sold the first one. She then sold a second book to another publisher the same week. She continued writing books for older kids, abandoning her dream of illustrating for a while. After writing nine books, she wrote and illustrated The Easter Egg Farm, and has done both ever since.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

K^-Gr. 2. This latest entry in Auch's popular "poultry parodies" will have educators as well as children applauding its heroine, Henrietta the hen, whose ability to read saves her aunts from becoming the next soup of the day. Henrietta's aunties are going on a wonderful all-expenses-paid vacation--or so they think. But as the truck pulls away, Henrietta notices the sign, "Souper Soup Co." Horrified, she flies into action. She reads the soup company's address from a soup can label at the grocery store, then finds the exact location by reading a map. On her way to free her aunts, she comes across a load of pigs aboard a Saucy Sausage Company truck and some cows headed for the Happy Hamburger Company. After warning the animals about their fate, she implores them to "please learn to read! Reading can save your lives!" The grateful critters get the message, and so will kids. What better messengers than Henrietta and this clever tale, hilariously illustrated in wonderfully expressive, super-silly cartoon pictures. A good choice to celebrate reading during Children's Book Week--or anytime. --Lauren Peterson

Publisher's Weekly Review

The yolk's on readers, thanks to Auch's familiar feathered friends (who premiered in Bantam of the Opera, the first of what the publisher calls the "poultry parodies"), who fly to new heights in this escape-from-the-chicken-factory tale with a winning moral. Henrietta's aunts make fun of her for reading instead of laying eggs, but they also don't realize that when the farmer carts them away on "vacation," they are actually headed for the "Souper Soup" factory (only Henrietta can read the sign on the truck). Henrietta tracks the aunts down from the label on a soup can, follows the instructions on the security system to plan their escape, and uses a vegetarian newsletter in a rural mailbox to find refuge from chicken-eating humans. Filled with the author's trademark puns-the Souper Soup men joke with the farmer about Henrietta (" `Sure, she's a cream of a chicken. It'll be egg drop all over the place once she gets started!' `No wonder you're wonton to keep her' ")-the story also boasts nicely drawn stock characters and a story line that never gets sidetracked. The artists' (who first teamed up for The Princess and the Pizza) illustrations use cut-and-pasted computer images of chicken feathers, fabric, soup cans and, most charmingly, reading glasses strung librarian-style around Henrietta's neck; they paint facial expressions and other details by hand. Figures and feathers fly across the spreads until the very last page, when readers can breathe a sigh of relief. A fine addition to the Auchs' eggcellent library. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 4-A disappointing addition to Auch's collection of enjoyable stories featuring poultry with high aspirations. In Hen Lake (1995) and Bantam of the Opera (1997, both Holiday), the author successfully teamed a follow-your-dreams message with humorous storytelling, but in this tale about a self-taught hen, she runs afoul of her formula. When egg production is down, Henrietta's aunts think that the farmer is sending them on a well-deserved vacation, but the younger chicken's ability to read the truck's "Souper Soup" logo clues her in to their real destination. On her mission to save her relatives from the soup factory, Henrietta reads labels, maps, and signs, pausing along the way to warn truckloads of pigs and cows of their futures as sausages and hamburgers. After the rescue is complete, the heroine and her flock find refuge with a vegetarian organic farmer. By the end, the story's pro-reading emphasis is overwhelmed by its anti-meat slant, and ceaseless puns only underscore the macabre tone. Even if young readers understand the farmer's tasteless comments ("-she's a cream of a chicken") and the truck driver's replies ("No wonder you're wonton to keep her"), they are more likely to groan than chuckle. Auch's other protagonists were driven by the joy of self-expression; the sole motivation here is survival. The illustrations are colorful and expressive, but aren't enough to lighten the mood. Compared to the author's previous successes, this book simply isn't up to scratch.-Eve Ortega, Cypress Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.