As I progressed in my search for different variations on the tales, I realized that there would be some dissonance in comparing picturebook versions with others that are meant just to be read or spoken aloud. The sheer number of picture book versions of Chicken Little was a bit shocking but it made me question what it was about the tale that made it popular material for children.
If you search your web browser for “Henny Penny” or “Chicken Little” and “interactive” you’ll see countless examples of lesson plans and other material that help educators teach children through this particular folktale. As you’ll notice, primarily in the English version of Henny Penny recorded by Joseph Jacobs, the characters all have rhyming names. Most of them are rather silly but very amusing for young readers and is a good exercise for beginners learning about word sounds and composition. Perhaps this is where Seuss got some of his inspiration? The repetition in the narrative, and accumulation of characters is also a good way to teach cognitive memory and sequence of events.
You’ll notice in many of the tales, a liberal use of onomotopoeia with the “thuds” and “plops” and “cracks” which make these stories fun to share in groups. All of these elements combined make Henny Penny perfect material for kids books. But is the apocalypse appropriate for children? Probably not, but the difference between these tales and other tales of doom and destruction, is the context of the material–mocking humor.
Part of my frustration in finding different versions of this unique combination of tale types is that these stories aren’t necessarily about the end of the world or misplaced panic and hysteria (I’ve consequently learned that flood myths and end of the world tales like Ragnarok etc. are more closely related to creation myths). Because these characters react to mundane occurances in such an extreme way, these tales become lessons in adjusting to the random things life throws our way. What NOT to do! The formulaic outline of the plot encourages logic, where the actual narration mocks assumption. And that’s not such a bad lesson for kids.
Since this site is practically propaganda for the benefits of reading on the internet, I found the perfect version of the tale Henny Penny, in picture book form, on the internet. This was found on The Waterford Institue’s website. They are an organization dedicated to educating children with technology.
Check out some examples of picturebooks.