Free Rain, by Daniel Wentzel ISBN 9780990890515
Five out of five stars
The title is a play on two words that have become very dominant in the food industry recently, “free range.” Loosely defined, it means a chicken that lives in a space much larger than the general 67 square inches of area that a cage chicken occupies. In my earlier years I purchased some hens from a cage facility and it was sad to watch them learn to walk and scratch. It took some time, but eventually they were able to self rehabilitate and after a time you could not tell the difference between the former caged and the never caged.
The story opens with some chickens in cages watching the weather through a hole in the wall of their coop. They hear thunderstorms and there had been rumors of something new, so the natural cry was “Free Rain.” However, the change was to be more dramatic, the chickens were to be let out of their cages and allowed to roam about.
Initially, they found their newfound freedom to be very scary and for the first time they encountered other farm animals such as dogs and cows. Yet, their basic nature asserted itself and they were soon enjoying the sun, puddles of water and lots of fresh clean air.
This is a nice story that is both a comment on the growing demand for free range chickens and eggs as well as a metaphor of the potential of exploring new environments. Written roughly at the level of the second grader, this is an adventure story for children with significant social meaning.