If buffalos had wings, imagine the size they’d be! I don’t know if Rooster thought this through before he set out to find some, but I hope he has a huge appetite if he discovers them.
Rooster shouldn’t have been looking in Mrs. Nuthatcher’s cookbooks in the first place. Now he has a craving for buffalo wings - and none are nearby. There are no buffalo on the Nuthatcher farm, but there must be some out West. With the football game about to start, Rooster has limited time to find a buffalo and get those wings.
The Nuthatchers should never turn their backs or close their eyes on the animals at their farm. When they do, their television gets dragged away, their truck is driven out West, and their ingredients are confiscated from the kitchen to make foods like quackamole and nachos.
While the animals are re-arranging the Nuthatcher’s belongings out in the farmyard for the big game, Rooster is stopping at different locations looking for buffalo wings. But cowboys and clowns are all Rooster finds at Buffalo Bob’s Wild West Rodeo, and grizzlies are the only animals roaming at the Buffalo Smoke National Park. Rooster’s in luck, though, when he’s driving back home to the farm. Buffalo! A whole herd of them! The buffalo may look normal to us, but their appearance is shocking to Rooster. Wingless buffalo! What? Rooster decides to take a closer look at his recipe. The re-reading does clear up the confusion for Rooster, but it also increases his redness.
It’s very late in the day now, but all is not lost. Rooster manages to catch the football game with some new friends - friends who happen to have great taste in snack foods, too. Eager to introduce his new friends and these new football snacks to his friends back on the farm, Rooster plans a day of football, food and fun. It looks like everyone’s ready to have a fantastic time, especially Rooster.
It’s the way the chicken is eyeballing the buffalo on the cover of this book that made me want to read it. Readers will think, stupid chicken, but when they turn the cover over and see the back, readers will see the joke is on them.
The animals on Nuthatcher farm not only think they are smarter than us, but they think they are smarter than their owners, too. The front endpapers show the animals on the farm watching the television. Some are looking at it through the window, and some of the luckier animals are watching it from indoors – on an unsuspecting and sleeping Mrs. Nuthatcher.
The title page, copyright page, back endpapers, and back jacket flap incorporate the story into the design. This makes the book fun to read from front to back. The animals are cartoon-like in appearance. Pigs have huge noses, Rooster’s tail feathers are brilliantly colored, the chickens show their teeth when they smile, and the mouse is very smart. He can drive a stick-shift, use a camera, work a remote control, and referee a football game.
The animal personalities come out in the illustrations. Rooster surveys the food table with his hands on his hips, looking perturbed by what he sees on the table. The chickens are supportive. They are the direction indicators and the kitchen helpers in the story. Mouse is the cool one. He’s always in his dark sunglasses, even at night. And it turns out the buffalo have great manners. They wear a chef’s hat and apron when serving food, and they cross their legs and keep their feet flat on the ground when sitting down to eat. They even use an improvised coaster when setting a drink down on a rock.
It’s the illustrator, not the author, who shows us what happens to Rooster when he’s out looking for buffalo. At the rodeo, Rooster finds himself becoming a part of the show, and his time at the National Park looks just as unpleasant. It may seem fun to young readers, but you can tell Rooster is not impressed.
The animal illustrations are big and close-up, and this makes us feel more involved in the story. The buffalo are more distant at first, but as friendships grow their composition on the page shifts. The buffalo that were first seen standing on a distant hill are later seen making plans huddling around Rooster, or squeezing together with their new friends for a picture.
There is some repetition of phrase in the text. Many of the pages end with the line “but something was missing,” or “but not a single buffalo.” At the end of the story, the lines change with one word, bringing continuity and rhythm to the story.
Aaron Reynolds is married and has two children. He is the author of many children’s books, including Tale of the Poisonous Yuck Bugs and Breaking Out of the Bungle Bird. Paulette Bogan lives with her family in New York City. She has created many books for children, including Goodnight Lulu and Mummy’s Magical Handbag.
Chicks and Salsa, Reynolds and Bogan’s first cuisine-inspired story, would make a wonderful accompaniment to Buffalo Wings.