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*Merry Christmas, Cheeps!* by Julie Stiegemeyer, illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee
Also written and/or illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee:

Merry Christmas, Cheeps!
by Julie Stiegemeyer, illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee
Baby-preschool 24 pages Bloomsbury USA October 2007 Paper over board    

Christmas is a busy time of year for the Cheeps family. There’s a lot going on between the first snowball and December 25th, and the two youngest chicks in the family have fun experiencing it all.

It’s wintertime, and Christmas is near. Hats are on heads, scarves around necks. It’s snowed so much that one small chick is up to her knees in it. Snowflake-catching and snow angel-making quickly turn into preparations for the big day. To celebrate Christmas, gingerbread cookies are baked, the tree is decorated, and carols are sung. In anticipation of Christmas morning, a Santa story is read, stockings are hung, and cookies are left out. Christmas Eve is cut short, though, as excited chicks are up early. Candy canes in hand, they are more than ready to go downstairs to see their presents and to be with their family.

The Cheeps Christmas story is told in rhyming text. As Christmas morning nears, the author writes:
Sing a cheery Christmas song…
jingle jingle hum
Cut out cookies one by one…
sprinkle sprinkle yum
All the text in the story revolves around playing in the snow or preparing for Christmas, and the traditional Christmas colors dominate all areas of the book. Reds and greens suffuse many of the decorative borders and several of the backgrounds. Winter attire is red, green, and white. Gingerbread cookie decorations are red and green, and many of the tree ornaments are red, green and gold.

Readers are frequently reminded it is a chicken Christmas. Chicken footprints surround the snow angels; the tree ornaments have chickens on them; and in the children’s storybook, Santa is a chicken.

The endpapers of this book complement the story. The front endpapers feature the Christmas Cheeps Christmas Treats recipe, and the back endpapers contain the last two pages of the story.

Starting with the first page then continuing every second page thereafter, decorative borders frame the illustrations, reminiscent of picture frames in shape and style. The symbols decorating the frames can be seen again when the pages are turned over and hint at what’s coming. For example, the first page shows a snowflake frame. When the page is turned, the two chicks can be seen outside catching snowflakes on their tongues.

The textured illustrations include chickens that look like they were made of towels, the snow out of plasticine and the star out of paper. Many of the objects are miniatures and must have been made especially for this story. The Christmas tree is small, but the ornaments on it are even tinier.

Before there was Merry Christmas, Cheeps!, there was Cheep! Cheep!. Both books were created by Julie Stiegemeyer and Carol Baicker-Mckee. Stiegemeyer was born and raised in Colorado. She has a master’s degree in English Education, and her first book was published in 1997. Some of her books include Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration and Mommy Promises. Carol Baicker-McKee creates her illustrations with fabric, paint and clay. She is a self-taught artist who is also the author of the “FussBusters” series and a monthly columnist for Nick Jr. magazine.

These homemade chick with only one real feather are cute, and their home life is cozy. I recommend this book.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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