My daughter, Anna, has told me that no matter how many books I publish, “Which Came First?” will always be her favorite. I don’t know if she likes it because of the fact that the story really happened to me when I was a girl, or if it’s the highly entertaining illustrations by Vicki Killion Guess, or maybe just because it’s a funny story about a girl and chickens. I like it too and I had a lot of fun writing it.
“Which Came First?” was my second book and is a tongue-in-cheek, humorous story about a ten-year -old girl who must gather the eggs on her grandmother’s farm. The problem is she is terrified of the chickens and of the rooster named “Pretty Boy” who patrols the barnyard. Torn between her fear of the chickens and her desire to please her beloved grandmother, the girl tries several resourceful ways to get the task completed.
While it’s a funny farm story about chickens and eggs and the love between a grandmother and granddaughter, it’s also a story about not giving up and being resourceful. I wrote the story because I wanted children to know about farm life and what it was like to have to gather eggs. I also wanted to write a story that taught about the importance of perseverance and not giving up just because a something might be a little difficult.
“Which Came First?” is a story I originally wrote 15-20 years ago when my children were growing up. As a mother, when you are trying to teach your own children, you often think back to how you were taught. As a young girl, I learned from my grandmother that you keep trying until you figure out a way to get the job done. This means you may have to try several different approaches before you are successful. What a good lesson for us all!
From “Which Came First?”:
I entered the room where the chickens had their production line and saw the triple row of boxes lining the perimeter of the room. The hens sat on their nests like a line of haughty matrons under the hair dryers at the local beauty salon. Even though it was quiet and dark in there, I could feel their beady eyes watching me. They were silently daring me to try to take away their prized accomplishments.
I was afraid of them, and sensed that they felt, even took delight in my fear. As I approached the closest row of nests, one of the hens began making that low sound of half fear and half warning that rumbled out of their throats whenever they felt threatened by thieving humans. Soon, the other hens joined in and the chicken coop came alive with a chorus of menacing clucks.
On a personal note, I wanted to use the phrase “Don’t be a chicken liver” in one of my stories because that’s something my brother, Jeff, and I used to say to one another when we were kids and one of us was afraid of something. In hindsight, I wish I had named the book “Don’t Be a Chicken Liver” because it’s funny and it makes me think of him whenever I say it.
One of the many things that makes “Which Came First?” fun to read, is that artist Vicki Killian Guess hid a mouse in all of the outside illustrations for children (and adults) to find. At the end of the story, there are also egg points with “Fun Facts About Chickens” and “Funny Chicken Sayings.”
My books are available at a library near you, at selected gift stores across the country, on Amazon, and for a signed copy, on my author website: janetseverhull.com