The Chicken Squad

Chicken Squad (1)

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure
by Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Illustrator Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Author Information:
Doreen Cronin official website:

Activities for The Chicken Squad:

Doreen Cronin Interviews:

Illustrator Information:
Kevin Cornell:

Life cycle of a chicken:

Learn how to raise yard chickens:

Create your own detective gear:

Design your own UFO:

Plan a barbecue, plan the menu, plan for the materials you’d need and design invitations:

Construct a chicken coop:

Design and construct your own alien:

Are aliens real?:

Know your shapes:

What is a rhombus?

Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels:

Find out if squirrels make good pets:

Devise an outfit of camouflage. Design it to blend in with a particular surrounding in your area. Then, try it out. See if anyone spots you.  

How to do the chicken dance:

Make your own chickens:

Make your own squirrels:

Have an egg race. Gather some plastic eggs and some spoons.  Divide into teams and race to see who can run the fastest while keeping the egg on the spoon.  

Hold an egg toss. In pairs, players toss a plastic egg back and forth, each time stepping back one step. The winners are the one who toss the egg the farthest without dropping it.

Explore some egg recipes. With an adult, create some of these egg dishes to try.  You may even want to include them in your menu plans:

Discussion Questions:

J.J. Tully isn’t in the book much, yet his presence is felt throughout the story. Why do some of the chicken squad want to get him? Why doesn’t Squirrel want to get him?  

Have you ever felt the need to get help from an adult? Describe the circumstances.

Squirrel seems nervous. People often describe that as “squirrely”. Do you think “squirrely” describes Squirrel? Why or why not?  Do you know anyone who has been nervous? Have you ever been nervous? How did you handle it?

Though the Chicken Squad members work together, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses and distinct personalities. How do these traits help them solve the mystery?  What are some of your strengths?  What are some of your weaknesses?  How can knowing our strengths and weaknesses help us?

Tully tells us to get him if the Chicken Squad causes “too much trouble”. Is solving this mystery enough to wake Tully? If you were watching the yard, would you have awakened him? What is too much trouble? How would you handle being in charge of the yard with the chicken squad?

What did you think was after Squirrel? Would you have been just as scared or would you have been more like the members of the Chicken Squad?

The Chicken Squad members don’t believe in UFOs. Do you think UFOs are real?  

What is the yard that Tully welcomes us to?  

When Tail comes yelling for help, why does Sugar ask for details and take notes?  

Why do you think Tail thinks the dog is big and scary? Why do you think Tully chases him around the yard? Have you ever been chased by a dog?

Sugar decides that the UFO has come for the chickens, not the squirrels. Why does Sugar feel this way?  

If you were an alien in a UFO, would you come for chickens or squirrels? What would you come for?

Tail repeatedly tells himself, “I am a brave squirrel.” Do you think this helps him feel brave?  Do you think it would help you feel brave?

Tully is awakened by the sound of pebbles hitting the barbecue. Barbara runs out and is distracted by the fire, and Sugar decides the aliens are there for the hot dogs, because everyone loves hot dogs. Do you like hot dogs?

JJ Tully knew it was a barbecue. Why did he let the chickens figure it out for themselves? How do you learn things for yourself?

Do you think it’s important to learn and do things for yourself? Why?

Did you know it was a barbecue? What did you think was inside?

What kinds of food would you barbecue? What kinds of food do you think aliens eat?

The chickens use a plan with camouflage. What is camouflage? Have you ever used any camouflage?

What animal would you rather be, a chicken, a squirrel, or a dog? Why?

Book Talk Teasers:

Read the introduction p. 1 – 6.

Read Ch. 1, p. 9 – 18.

List pros and cons of squirrels being a pet. Compare the list with information on:
(Make sure and watch the fun video at the above site: “A curious cat watches a furry visitor.”)

Read Alikes:

Mystery stories:
Cronin, Doreen. The trouble with chickens: a J. J. Tully mystery. A hard-bitten former search-and-rescue dog helps solve a complicated missing chicken case. (NoveList)

Hale, Bruce. The Mystery of Mr. Nice: from the tattered casebook of Chet Gecko.When the principal of his school begins acting nice to him, Chet Gecko realizes that he is an imposter and so sets out to find the real one. (NoveList)

Krosoczka, Jarrett. The  Frog who croaked. Paired together after a veteran detective retires, platypus police squad members Rick Zengo, a hotshot rookie, and Corey O’Malley, a hard-nosed old-timer, struggle with their differences while tackling their first case involving a missing schoolteacher and a duffle bag filled with illegal fish. (NoveList)

Humorous stories:
Stilton, Geronimo. The karate mouse. When Bruce Hyena and his cousin, Shorty Tao, enter Geronimo in the Karate World Championship, he has only one week to get into shape and learn karate. (NoveList)

Canadian fiction, mystery stories:
Sleep, Betty. Purrlock Holmes and the case of the vanishing valuables: a paws-on tale of mystery. Purrlock Holmes the cat and Watson the Basset Hound follow the trail of a thief who has robbed their friends’ homes. (NoveList)

Humorous stories, Mystery stories:
Erickson, John R. The case of the falling sky. After Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security, collects clues from the chickens and the cat that indicate that the sky will fall, he springs into action to keep the ranch safe. (NoveList)

Levy, Elizabeth. A hare-raising tail. Fletcher the dog is a hit at the show-and-tell presentation until the class rabbit mysteriously disappears. Fletcher and his flea friend Jasper are determined to solve the case and prove Fletcher’s innocence. (Novelist)

Turnage, Sheila. Three times lucky. Washed ashore as a baby in tiny Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, Mo LoBeau, now eleven, and her best friend Dale turn detective when the amnesiac Colonel, owner of a cafe and co-parent of Mo with his cook, Miss Lana, seems implicated in a murder. (NoveList)

Illustrated books, mystery stories:
Pastis, Stephan. Mistakes were made. Resolving to earn so much money that his mother will no longer stress out over the bills, eleven-year-old Timmy Failure launches a detective business with a lazy polar bear partner named Total but finds their enterprise “Total Failure, Inc.” challenged by a college-bound spy and a four-foot-tall girl whom Timmy refuses to acknowledge. (NoveList)

Mystery stories, quirky:
Snicket, Lemony. Who could that be at this hour? Thirteen-year-old Lemony Snicket begins his apprenticeship with S. Theodora Markson of the secretive V.F.D. in the tiny dot of a town called Stain’d By The Sea, where he helps investigate the theft of a statue. (NoveList)

Hiaasen, Carl. Scat. Nick and his friend Marta decide to investigate when a mysterious fire starts near a Florida wildlife preserve and an unpopular teacher goes missing. (NoveList)

Mystery stories, first person narrative:
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. The house on the gulf.  A sixteen-year-old boy arranges a housesitting job for the summer, but he starts acting strangely after his family moves in, and his sister begins to suspect they are not supposed to be there. (NoveList)

Mystery stories, realistic fiction:
Clements, Andrew. Room one: a mystery or two. Ted Hammond, the only sixth grader in his small Nebraska town’s one-room schoolhouse, searches for clues to the disappearance of a homeless family. (NoveList)

Duncan, Lois. News for dogs. Moving on to her latest venture, Andi is excited when her newspaper for dogs becomes a big success, but when a group of evil dognappers use it to kidnap the pooches she knows and loves, Andi must do everything she can to catch the culprits and return all the dogs back to their rightful owners. (NoveList)

Roberts, Willo Davis. Megan’s island. First, eleven-year-old Megan is astonished when her mother insists on taking her and her younger brother up to the lake cottage a week before school is out; then they find mysterious strangers following them. (NoveList)

Realistic fiction:
Airgood, Ellen. Prairie Evers. “Ten-year-old Prairie is happy being home-schooled and raising her flock of chickens, so transferring to regular school is a big change, but fortunately she meets a wonderful friend”–. (NoveList)

Graphic novel hybrids; Mystery stories:
Ravishankar, Anushka. Captain Coconut & the case of the missing bananas: a number mystery. When great detective Captain Coconut is called in to solve a mystery involving missing bananas, he finds himself using his math skills on a slippery trail of peels. (NoveList)

Early chapter books, Mystery stories:
Butler, Don Hillestad. The Buddy files: the case of the school ghost. When therapy dog Buddy attends the fourth grade sleepover in the school’s library, he solves the mystery of the school ghost. (NoveList)


Book Reviews:

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventures.
By Doreen Cronin. Illus. by Kevin Cornell.
2014. 112p. Atheneum, $12.99 (9781442496767). Gr. 2–4.
First published April 15, 2014 (Booklist).

When a terrified squirrel barges into a backyard chicken coop looking for help, four tough little chicks patiently draw out his story and try to figure out what frightened the panicky critter. Deducing that a UFO may have landed in the yard, chicks Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie camouflage themselves with grass clippings and pelt the new (vaguely UFO-like) barbecue grill with rocks in a misguided attempt to rescue Moosh, their mom. Retired search-and-rescue dog J. J. Tully charges in to stop the attack and set things straight. If the characters sound familiar, they appeared in the J. J. Tully Mystery series. Now the four little chicks move into the spotlight for the Chicken Squad series. With its shorter text and larger type, the book will suit somewhat younger readers, those just moving up to chapter books. As in the previous series, some chapters are written in third person, while others are narrated by the dog. Cornell’s comical gray-wash illustrations magnify the story’s mild humor. An amusing beginning chapter book. Carolyn Phelan


Horn Book:
The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure [Chicken Squad Adventure]
by Doreen Cronin; illus. by Kevin Cornell
Primary     Atheneum     100 pp.
4/14 978-1-4424-9676-7     $12.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-9678-1     $9.99

While retired search-and-rescue dog J. J. Tully (The Trouble with Chickens, rev. 3/11; The Legend of Diamond Lil, rev. 7/12) takes a little nap, four of the chicks in his charge take the limelight. Before his snooze, J. J. describes each chick for readers and then puts them on notice: “Wake me if they get into any trouble. Well, big trouble. I’m sure you can handle a little trouble on your own.” Of course Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie are in trouble by the next page turn, when a frazzled squirrel bursts into the coop reporting “something big and scary in the yard.” Pinning down the specifics of this claim becomes an arduous—and humorous—task, but the sleuthing chicks bravely head out to set things right. Fortunately, the commotion rouses J. J. just in time. Large font, short paragraphs, and straightforward sentences combine with expressive, endearing black-and-white illustrations on almost every page to support new chapter book readers. The zealous Chicken Squad has much to learn before it can solve any mysteries solo, but the chicks’ earnest mistakes create more than enough action, entertainment, and mayhem to suffice. JULIE ROACH (May/June 2015 Horn Book Magazine)


School Library Journal:
The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure
Gr 1–3—Those cheeky chicks are back—this time in a series all their own. Fresh on the heels of their adventures in The Trouble with Chickens (2011) and The Legend of Diamond Lil (2012, both HarperCollins), Dirt, Sugar, Sweetie, and Poppy must now contend with a cowardly squirrel named Tail and a “big and scary” something that has landed in the backyard. Using deductive reasoning and some strangely creative camouflage, the chickens hatch a plan to investigate the mysterious object. The curmudgeonly ex-police dog, J.J. Tully, lends his deadpan observations to the humorous text, while Cornell’s black-and-white illustrations bring Cronin’s oddball characters to life with a goofy charm. Kids who enjoyed the first two books in the “J.J. Tully Mysteries” series will be delighted that the four intrepid chicks take center stage in this laugh-out-loud new chapter book series.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal