Doreen Cronin, author of Diary of a Spider, breaks into chapter books with the fast-paced, funny The Trouble with Chickens. J. J. Tully is a retired search-and-rescue dog now living out in the country with his trainer who finds retirement less than restful when a chicken named Millicent drags him into a case. Two of her chicks are missing, and Millicent is insistent J.J. find them even if the mother chicken doesn’t have a clue what a dog charges for work (A hint is that chicken feed won’t buy a canine).
J.J.’s point of view hints at gritty noir. He gives the chickens nicknames that are less than stellar (Moosh, Sugar and Dirt) while tracking down scents. Rain fouls up the investigation for a time until a note from the kidnapper arrives.
This is a fun, light-hearted problem solving where some problem solving turns the villain’s game backwards. Kevin Cornell’s illustrations are a great complement to the story. A few parts of the book are told by house dog Vince the Funnel, which shows the case is more complicated than J.J. imagines.
Of the chickens, Sugar has the most personality. She’s willing to rush into things, is smart, and has a few secrets up her wing. Millicent aka Moosh also has a fairly strong personality. For me, it is Sugar and J.J. who really make this story click.
I’m curious to see what will happen in the next J. J. book.