“My Dear Little Cordon Bleu”

 

Today’s post comes from some trial illustration work I was doing this week on my day off. I’m hoping this villain is “just right” on the scary character scale.

“You are looking particularly tender and delicious this evening, My Dear,” said The Sewer Rat as he nervously chewed on his tail.

He had tried every trick he knew, and none had worked. This time, he was trying his best to seem kind and complimentary.

Gracie stared at him as she had always done while the others huddled together in a far corner.

“Why don’t you come out of that box he’s got you in. It is so much better out here. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

“Stop it,” said Gracie.

“Ah, so you can do something other than stare at me. That’s delightful. Almost as delightful as all of the wonderful things I can show you out here.”

“Go away,” said Gracie.

“Only if you will go away with me,” replied The Sewer Rat sweetly. “You can be My Dear Little Cordon Bleu.”

“I don’t know what that is,” said Gracie. “But it sounds French. Do you know more French words?”

Gracie knew immediately she had said too much, but it was too late. The Sewer Rat grinned with delight. He was sure he had snagged her with his trickery.

“It is French, just like all of the best ballet étoiles.”

“What does that word mean?”

“You dance ballet and don’t know what an étoile is?”

“How do you know I dance ballet?”

“Oh, I’ve been watching you, My Dear. I’ve been watching you for quite some time now.

“A ballet étoile like you could be transformed into the best cordon bleu. Ah, yes, My Little Cordon Bleu. Of course you could also be My Little Kiev if you like Russian ballet or My Little Moo Goo Gai Pan if you like Chinese ballet.

“The choice is yours, My Dear. Why don’t you find a way to come outside? I have beautiful plans for you. Beautiful plans indeed. We can talk about everything without the others poking their beaks into our personal business.”

“You and I, we have no personal business,” she said and turned and walked away without looking back.

There was no way for The Sewer Rat to get through the wire of their chicken run. Even though he protested about being ignored and pretended to gnaw through the metal mesh, Gracie would not show any fear. She kept thinking about how much she was loved. A heart filled with love has no place for fear.

“Have pity on me. I am not beautiful and talented like you,” he called to her.

He pretended to be terribly hurt, but Gracie knew better than to trust him.

Adieu, Mon Cherie. Adieu,” he said, and blew her a kiss. “Délicieuse.”

He sulked away across the street and slinked down into his storm drain. The chickens all breathed a sigh of relief, but they knew he was not out of plans and schemes.

That evening when I was tucking everyone in for the night, Gracie asked me, “How would you feel if I became a ballet étoile?”

Everyone leaned forward to hear what I would say.

“I would be very proud of you. That is a great honor in France. It is actually the highest honor at The Paris Opera Ballet. It would mean you are a ballet star.”

“How would you feel if I became a cordon bleu?”

Everyone leaned forward even more. The answer to this question was much more important.

“I would be sad, more sad than I’ve ever been in my life. That is not a good thing for a chicken to be. It would mean you would never dance again. It would mean that you would not be with us any more. That would break my heart.”

“I thought so!” said Bessie. “I knew being a cordon bleu was not a good thing. And I will bet neither is being a kiev or a moo goo gai pan.”

“Where did you learn all of those words? It wasn’t from me.”

“From The Sewer Rat,” they all said together.

“And he smells funny too,” added Pearl.

Everyone nodded vigorously.

“What he was saying is that he wanted to have you for dinner, but not in a good way.”

“You mean he wants to…” they all said together but were too afraid to say anything more.

“Eat you,” I said. “But that will never happen. I will never let that happen.”

“I am going to find a way to put an end to this,” said Gracie. “One of these days, he may be tricky enough to convince one of us to go outside.”

And that night while everyone slept, Gracie stayed awake and thought and thought until she had the most excellent plan ever. It would prove that chickens are brave and it would get rid of The Biggest Scary Thing in her life and the lives of her friends once and for all.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! 

“Peep. Cheep?”

 

Today’s post comes from some trial work I was doing this week on my day off. It is a simple illustration using my new wild pen and some text from a possible story.  

I was reminiscing about some of the books I read many years ago as a child. There were large, full-page illustrations in chapter books. Each usually had a snippet of text from the story underneath. They gave a hint of what the story was about and created interest without giving away the plot of the whole book.

In the more expensive books, these would be found on full-color pages printed on special paper and inserted into the book. You could easily spot them because the paper was smoother and stood out against the rougher text pages. And if you wanted to, which I did, you could look at each of those pictures and read each piece of text to get an idea of what the book might be about.

And if those pages convinced me to check a book out of the library, they became “reading goal markers” for me. I would eagerly read to get to the next beautifully illustrated special page. 

Somewhere in my garage, I have a box of books with some reprints of children’s classics illustrated by N.C. Wyeth which I purchased as an adult. “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson was perhaps my favorite. The illustration of “One more step, Mr. Hands, said I, and I’ll blow your brains out” was one of my favorites then and now. Who could resist discovering more about those words or the illustration that went with them?

It is doubtful that my work will every be as good as the classic illustrators I admire so much, but hopefully this little illustration will capture your imagination and cause you to wonder what “Peep. Cheep?” might mean. Of course, if you are a regular reader, you have probably already guessed from the pose and the innocently hopeful expression.

You know, I really do need to build those bookcases I’ve been saying I’m going to build!

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! 

May Wild Roses…(from “How To Find A Most Wondrous Place”)

 

Today’s story and illustration come from Chapter Two of “How To Find A Most Wondrous Place.”

If a little chick is ever to quiver with excitement, it will be the first time they stand on a fresh springtime lawn. Then they realize, “This is almost too good to be true. This is the life for me!”

There is warm sunshine to enjoy. There is cool dewy grass to eat. And there are bugs everywhere! In an instant, their entire world is alive with new colors, sounds, and sensations. So could those things make our garden A Most Wondrous Place?

Before then, they had relied on me to bring them treats. Once outside, they could hunt for their own. And they hunted! Whoever found an earthworm would take it and run. Everyone would follow and hope to grab it away from the lucky chick who had found it. 

There was only one direction…forward! And there was only one speed…as fast as their little feet would carry them! 

Each worm would get passed around several times. It took great skill to dodge and block and eventually maneuver into a spot where the winner could gobble it down.

It was their game, and they made up their own rules. They owned it, and I simply named it The Worm Olympics Game.      

There were times when they were unable to find any worms. They would all line up at the play fence and watch in awe as I dug up a fresh batch of worms from the compost pile. Their eyes grew big and they peeped and cheeped with delight when I said, “We have some, and they are whoppers!” To them, I was the greatest worm hunter of all time. 

Sometimes I acted as referee and supplied the “worm toss” to start a new contest, but the object of the game was always the same. They played simply to have fun with their friends and maybe enjoy an earthworm or two. 

Each outdoor adventure gave them new experiences and new knowledge. They would run and play until they were completely exhausted. Then they would flop down on their tummies with their wings spread straight out and take a nap. We called this “going splat.”

Once they had played their last game for the day, I would gently pick them up and return them to their brooder box for dinner and a warm night of rest. They had all they needed with their friends and a world full of wonders. 

“I remember how we used to go splat after playing outside,” Gracie told me when we were reminiscing one day. “Bessie and I would always go splat together.”    

  “The two of you were easy to spot. You would be resting your head on Bessie, or she would be resting her head on you. None of the others would go splat like that. Only the two of you.”

“Yes, that was truly A Most Wondrous Place.”

There were those mysterious words again. Gracie had given me another clue to help me discover for myself what A Most Wondrous Place means to chickens.

“Even now on cold nights, I still see Bessie gently resting her head on your back just like how the two of you used to do.”

“And it is still only the two of us who do that,” she said. Then she added, “The Promise Of A Most Wondrous Place is that every heart can find a way into it because it is always trying to find a way into every heart.”

Wild roses in May are for love and adoration. The wild roses in our garden say to us, “There is always an abundance of the truly good things in life like friends to adore.”

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! If you have read our first book, “Seasons Of Friendship,” some of this may seem familiar, but there is now a beginning, middle, and end. These make one longer and more focused story rather than a collection of stories. By the way, each of our books will have at least one thing hidden in the illustrations. (This is a special promise to Gracie.) Did you find it?