As night draws near, the boy must feed the chooks and shut them in their pen. Across the farm yard he goes, past the buildings, machinery and trees of the farm yard.
He calls to the chooks and they follow him to their yard where he feeds them and counts them, speaking to them by name. But one chook is missing and it is getting dark. He must find the missing chook before the fox comes prowling, and conquer his own uncertainties about crossing the dark yard to get home.
Shutting the Chooks In is a charming new picture book from writer Libby Gleeson and illustrator Ann James. With minimal words, Gleeson creates rather than describes the emotions of the young boy, who remains nameless, portraying his closeness with the chickens (each of which does have a name) and his sense of duty. His uncertainty about the dark is also drawn by the word choice, and the reader can feel his heart pumping as he runs home, to joyfully greet his mother waiting inside the back door.
Ann Gleeson’s charcoal and pastel illustrations complement the simplicity of the text, with the colours of the twilight subtly creeping in as the story progresses. The golden light of home shining on the last page frames the boy on his triumphant return.
Shutting the Chooks In, by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Ann James
Scholastic Australia, 2003