Eating Between the Lines

Books for Cooks

Eating Between the Lines

Stories From the Hen House

by Carol Ann Sayle

Self-published, 60 pp., $8.95 (paper)

Boggy Creek farmer Carol Ann Sayle didn't set out to be a writer, but with this slim, cheery volume of children's stories, she's self-published her second book in as many years. Both books got their start in somewhat the same way. In the early days of the Boggy Creek farmstand, Sayle put personal "notes" from Miss Ethel, the Hen House boss, in bags of salad mix. Then Miss Ethel began to communicate with recipe suggestions that were available at the twice-weekly farmstand. Customers loved hearing from Miss Ethel. Folks began requesting to meet her and she started to get some return correspondence. The notes from Miss Ethel evolved into the weekly "Friends of the Farm" e-mail ( and Sayle collected her many recipe ideas for last year's Eating in Season: Recipes From Boggy Creek Farm (self-published, $12.95, paper). And now the late Miss Ethel, Willie the Rooster, Mrs. Bentley, and all the other feathered denizens of the Boggy Creek hen house star in a book of their own.

Stories From the Hen House is aimed at children and it starts by introducing young readers to the farm and the farmers, Carol Ann (Mottie in the book) and Larry (Grandaddy). Establishing the storyteller as someone's grandmother presents the stories in a comfortable, family atmosphere and will make readers young and old feel right at home. Sayle's pen-and-ink drawings explain the anatomy of chickens and there's a good first chapter that thoroughly describes life in the hen house from predators to pecking order and egg laying to poop. Four delightful stories follow. Kids will learn how the legendary Miss Ethel became boss of the hen house, read about the rooster war between Willie and Dr Pepper, meet Mrs. Bentley and her nine Harriets, and find out what happens to Wild Mommy when she decides to hatch her chicks beyond the safety of the hen house.

This delightful book will make a great stocking stuffer for kids ages two to 10 and any adults who might like to reminisce about a childhood on the farm. Each page is illustrated with Sayle's charming drawings that could serve to inspire young readers to do some sketching on their own. Stories From the Hen House strikes me as the kind of book that very young kids will memorize from demanding to have it read to them so many times and one that will earn a treasured place on the family bookshelf. An added benefit is that readers can meet the author and some of the characters in the book by simply taking a pleasant trip across Austin to the little farm in the city, Boggy Creek Farm (3414 Lyons Rd., 926-4650). Stories From the Hen House is available at the farmstand, Whole Foods Markets, Breed & Co., the Natural Gardener, and BookPeople.

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Stories From the Hen House, Carol Ann Sayle

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