Book Review: Gwen the Rescue Hen by Leslie Crawford & Sonja Stangl (2018)

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Enjoy with a plate of scrambled tofu!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley.)

“Come on, Gwen,” says Mateo, as he helps settle her onto the handlebars. Let’s hit it! she thinks. Let’s fly.

Hen is suffering a pretty miserable existence when a natural disaster proves her salvation. Imprisoned in a battery cage and exploited as a laying hen, Hen shares a tiny cage with half a dozen or so of her sisters. Everywhere Hen looks, she sees rows upon rows and stacks upon stacks of hens. Hen’s only freedom – her only escape from the chaos and filth of her prison – is in her dreams.

That is, until the day a tornado lifts Hen’s cage from the giant, industrial shed in which it’s housed and deposits Hen and her companions in a beautiful green field. The girls scatter, but not before a boy and his friends spot Hen. After a tense stand-off and a few close calls, Hen learns to trust the human boy called Mateo. Newly christened Gwen, Hen and the Boy become best friends, enjoying swims in the river (or, in Hen’s case, dust baths on the shore), roosting/reading marathons, and social calls.

Based on the destruction of an egg farm in Croton, Ohio, Gwen the Rescue Hen is a sweet and beautiful tale of friendship – and compassion. Gentle enough for young readers (Hen’s time as a cog in the machine of animal ag is indeed morose – as emphasized by the black and white palette – but handled with care, and with the more horrifying details omitted), the story is also educational, with plenty of facts about chickens sprinkled throughout. By giving a name to a bird – one of five billion such animals living in American battery cages at any given time – the authors affirm Gwen’s personhood: she is a someone, not a something. This shouldn’t be a novelty, and yet.

Gwen the Rescue Hen is a wonderful choice for vegan families, or for any parent or guardian wishing to instill a sense of compassion in their young children. And the artwork is super-adorable too!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)