I love the Chicken Squad books by Doreen Cronin and Gimme Shelter is no exception. I adore the film-noirish narration of J.J. Tully, the retired Search-and-Rescue dog who introduces each of the Chicken Squad stories, his actual role in the action varying from book to book in the series.
Gimme Shelter is almost exclusively the four members of the Chicken Squad: Sugar, Sweetie, Poppy and Dirt. This time around J.J. discovers Sugar digging a deep hole “twice as tall as she was and three times as wide.” Sugar explains that she is preparing a storm shelter–because there must be a storm coming at some point, right? The four chicks tumble through the creation of the shelter with their usual conflicting ideas and nuggets of ridiculous misinformation in a brilliant blending of slapstick and wit.
These books make me laugh just as hard as the kids–sometimes more. The illustrations by Stephen Gilpin throughout continue to be the perfect match for both the story and the characters. The Chicken Squad books are ideal as a next step for young readers transitioning from books like Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie series to easy, large print chapter books like Mercy Watson and the Deckawoo Drive series by Kate DiCamillo. They are also a perfect transition step from Doreen Cronin’s magnificent picture book stories to more complex plots and language. Gimme Shelter (and the rest of the Chicken Squad series) are great fun as a read-aloud in a primary classroom or at home, or as an independent read!