The cover of “Help Wanted: One Rooster.” Image courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

After writing 12 children’s books, Julie Falatko never discounts a potential story idea, no matter where it comes from.

Even “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” an irreverent British skit comedy television show from the 1970s.

“Graham Chapman is being interviewed for a job (by John Cleese), and the questions just keep getting more and more absurd,” said Falatko, of South Portland. “So that led me to this idea about a farm needing a rooster, and what the interview would be like.”

South Portland children’s author Julie Falatko.  Photo by Elle Darcy

Falako’s picture book “Help Wanted: One Rooster” (Penguin Young Readers), is illustrated by Andrea Stegmaier and went on sale this month. Falatko will be reading from the book during a story time at the new Barnes & Noble on Running Hill Road in South Portland on July 13, at 11 a.m.

The book takes place on a farm that seems a little disorganized and messy, and the cow – a very professional cow, says the sheep – has the task of interviewing rooster applicants that could bring order back to the establishment. The rooster that already lives on the farm never seems to get up early enough to do the job.

But none of the candidates, at least at first, seem to be taking the opportunity seriously. The very first candidate, when asked to make a “cock-a-doodle-doo” noise, responds “Do you really think that’s important?”


Another candidate, a small brown bird who is clearly not a rooster, says he wants the job because he wants to press the button that wakes up the farm. The bird is told there is no such button.

Although the candidates don’t seem cut out to do what usual roosters do, they do ring bells, push buttons, make coffee and play musical instruments. And in the end, all of them – including the farm’s original rooster  – help make the place better.

“The back story is really about the idea that everybody has talents and everybody can help in some way,” said Falatko, 53.

A page from “Help Wanted: One Rooster.” Image courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

Falatko said that as the field of children’s books has become more competitive, she’s felt more pressure to come up with ideas that are unique, yet relatable to kids and families. So while many children’s books are set on farms – because who doesn’t love farms and barnyard critters? – the back story of a job search and silly, imperfect candidates make this story different.

Faltko’s other children’s books include “Rick the Rock of Room 214,” “The Great Indoors,” “No Boring Stories” and “Snappsy the Alligator.”

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“Cranky” (HarperCollins), written by Phuc Tran of Portland and illustrated by Pete Oswald. The book, about a child-like construction crane in a bad mood, makes the point that not all bad moods can be, or have to be, fixed. It came out in February. The book is recommended for ages 4-8 and is the first of a planned three-book series.

“Lolly the Left Out Lobster” (Eat Laugh Give Productions) is the first children’s book by third-generation Ogunquit summer resident Allison Hill; it’s illustrated by Sandie Sonke. The book, which came out in May, is about a lobster that finds itself out of place in the Maine woods after being swept up onto shore by a storm. She’s at first shunned because she doesn’t look like other forest animals.

“Garbage Gulls” (Kids Can Press), written by Windham native Dorson Plourde and illustrated by Isabella Fassler. The book, which came out in early June, is about two brothers who, inspired by scavenging seagulls, go on an adventure “amidst the discarded treasures of a strip mall parking lot.” Plourde dedicated the book to the Skillin Elementary School in South Portland, where he taught for a decade.

“Hidden Hope: How a Toy and a Hero Saved Lives During the Holocaust,” (Harry N. Abrams) by Maine writer Elisa Boxer and illustrated by Amy June Bates. The book is based on a true story about how a toy duck was used to smuggle forged identity papers for Jewish refugees during World War II so they wouldn’t be murdered by the Nazis. The book came out last year, and this May won a Maine Literary Award in the children’s literature category.

“Tryouts” (Alfred A. Knopf) is a graphic novel by Portland author and illustrator Sarah Sax. It’s the latest book in the Brinkley Yearbook series, and focuses on Alexandra, who tries out for the all-boys’ middle school team, which is seeking its 10th championship. The book was published in May.

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