Secret life of chickens revealed by local author

For any visitor or resident of Kaua‘i, the colorful and articulate Gallus gallus, more commonly known as the chicken, is a constant presence along island roads, yards and airways. Kaua‘i’s unofficial mascot is the subject of a new children’s book.

Local artist, musician, hulaist and writer Carlton ‘Oba’ Davis has recently mythologized this bird in his first book entitled “Aretha and Her Three Chicks; Their Big Adventure.” Edited by his wife, Rachael Sue Starobin Davis, and illustrated by Los Angeles resident and mother-in-law Elsa Thompson, the book has been a family collaboration of over three years.

Impossible to miss, dawn till dusk, the rooster, hen and chicks cover our island from north to south, east and west. Born in Jackson, Miss., Davis found his paradise in 1992 and has lived here for the past 17 years. Father of two and founder of ‘Oba Visions and Jungle Chicks,’ a graphic design company and clothing line that features the Kaua‘i rooster as primary subject matter, Davis has long been fascinated by the bird. During his work as a landscape technician for Puu Pua Condominiums, Davis often encountered tourists who were fascinated by Kaua‘i’s enormous chicken population. Their questions got Davis thinking, and soon he had developed a home-hatched folk story that answered age old questions: Why do chickens cross the road? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? And how did that sunny little yolk end up inside a chicken’s egg?

An adventure that begins on the North Shore, Davis reveals that there are three separate chicken tribes living on the island. “The Cockle Doodle Do’s” of the north, “The Doodle Doodle Do’s” of the east and “The Er-Er-Er-Eerrr’s” of the Westside crow in different dialects and are keepers of family lineages that go back to ancient times. On a mission to find the “golden egg,” mother hen, Aretha, and her three chicks visit island landmarks such as the Kilauea Lighthouse, the Moloa‘a path, Opaeka‘a waterfall, the Kaua‘i Museum, Poi‘pu Beach and the swinging bridge in Hanapepe.

Mixed with humor and heroic surfing roosters, the book also warns children to be cautious while playing among the island’s waterways, beaches and hiking paths. The adventure ends with a visit to Queen Laka in the forest of Koke‘e and an answer to why roosters crow at the rising sun.

The original paintings by Elsa Thompson, a blend of watercolor and pen, are rendered in “primitive art” style that children will readily react to. While this is Thompson’s first illustration work, she has long been involved with the book business as an owner of the beloved and unique Bodhi Tree Book Store in West Hollywood, Calif. The book shop has provided an eclectic and diverse source in theological, philosophical, religious and spiritual books for Los Angelinos over the past 40 years. Thompson’s daughter, Rachael Sue Starobin Davis grew up among the wooden shelves of The Bodhi Tree before studying art therapy on the East Coast and later moving to Kaua‘i where she met her husband Oba Davis.

While the book was self-published and printed in Hong Kong, the typeset and layout were both done on Kaua‘i by Tom Niblick at the Printmaker, in Lihu‘e. “Aside from the actual printing, this is really a Kaua‘i-made product,” said Starobin Davis.

Certainly, any casual glance at the book reveals secrets of the island that could only be known by those who live here and love the chickens.

The book is geared for children 4 years old and up, and is available across the island at Borders in Lihu‘e, the Kaua‘i Museum gift shop, the Kealia Beach Store, End of the Rainbow in Ha‘ena, Robin Savage Gifts in Hanalei, the Kong Lung Co. in Kilauea, Davison Arts in Kapa‘a and the Lihu‘e Airport gift shop. On the Mainland the book can be found at The Bodhi Tree Bookstore in West Hollywood, Blanche on 3rd in L.A. and Harlem, New York.

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