Chickadee, Criminal Mastermind by Monica Silvie & Elina Ellis

Hello, readers! Today I’m keeping it short with a quick look at a funny title from 2022 (Kids Can Press), written by Monica Silvie and illustrated by Elina Ellis.

This cover grabbed me right away. Those eyes, right? This little chickadee could not be more quirky and original. Right off the bat, he lets us know what’s what:

There’s a criminal running amok. And it’s him. This is one of those oh-so-appealing characters with a FALSE BELIEF. Want to know how to do that well? Read this book.

Here’s why he thinks he’s a criminal mastermind. He 1) wears a mask, and 2) operates outside the rules his parents drilled into him as a hatchling. On the second spread, he settles onto a branch and proceeds to tell a group of irresistible forest animals exactly how he fell into this unsavory life of crime. Pretty quickly, we learn that one of his parents’ chief warnings was:  “… and don’t you go anywhere near those houses.” But when winter arrives and he’s extremely hungry, and when he spies “a vault of gold” (seeds) hanging in somebody’s back yard, right there for the stealing, how can he resist?

Note: I read this to one of my 5-yr-old grandsons, and I wasn’t sure he’d know what a criminal was, let alone a “criminal mastermind,” as this chickadee claims to be. So let me alert you right off the bat, that could be a problem if you’re a timid reader. HOWEVER, if you can jump into this little birdie’s head and read with gusto and sass and plenty of drama, you’ll be golden. My grand laughed out loud again and again. As well he should, because this is a funny, funny book. (P.S. If a kiddo likes it as much as our grand did, you might even want to think about gifting the book, along with a small bird feeder of some kind.)

One more thing to show you:  back matter … to remind us that we authors can add value to even a funny fiction book by including facts like these that show we’ve done our homework. I’ve been doing this myself, and it’s addicting. Heck, if an editor doesn’t want it, they can chuck it, right? It works beautifully here.

Bird and book lovers: If you haven’t yet found this book, give it a look!

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2024: Parrotfish Has a Superpower (a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection) and Bird Girl: Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature with the World (another JLG Gold Standard Selection). She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at


  1. Well, that’s adorable. Putting it on my list right now. Thanks Jill!

  2. I’m not a serious birder–but I do ‘talk’ to the chickadees in our yard! This book looks adorable. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Bwahhhaaa! I can hardly wait to read about this criminal! Thanks Jill and I look forward to meeting you at the Marvelous Midwest Conference in Davenport, Iowa. I’m the SCBWI-Wisconsin RA and we are so thrilled to have you presenting.

    • Deborah! I’m so excited to attend an in-person event again!!!
      What a lot of work for you RAs and helpers. Thanks for THAT!

  4. PB about a Diabolical Chickadee?! That’s the kind of fun character I’m masking for!🤗
    Thanks for sharing this!

  5. I love watching the chickadees at my feeder! So I have to check out this book asap.
    Thanks for the heads up!

  6. Sounds like a darling read!

  7. That book made an impression on me starting with the cover – clever and engaging!

  8. Those fact pages look awesome!

  9. Janet Frenck Sheets

    This book looks like so much fun!

  10. I checked this one out recently…loved it! Thanks for sharing, Jill!

  11. Oh, adorable! I LOVE watching the little chickadees! Such a wonderful premise! LOL. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks, Jill.

  12. Chickadees are such fun to watch. This sounds hilarious and educational, too. It’s going on my TBR list for sure.

  13. Spot-on description, Marty. Hilarious and educational! Hope you like it!

  14. I laughed out loud at the cover and the first page spread! Lots of fun goin’ on here!

  15. Just picked this one up from the library!
    Thanks for the recommendation! 🙂

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