Pandemic prompts Bonnie Henry hen cartoons


Salt Spring’s Jean Panepinto is one of those people who has used extra time at home over the past few months to do something creative.

Panepinto is used to getting out and doing things, but being in an older demographic, she and her husband kept to self-isolation except for the occasional essential trip. With little else to do, her sense of whimsy was sparked by the flock of chickens on her neighbour’s property. She’s now produced an entire book of cartoon-captioned photos with a pandemic theme titled The Hen Diaries and a starring character named Bonnie Hen. 

“Being a member of the Salt Spring Photo Club, I couldn’t resist taking their photograph and one day a cartoon popped into my head. I sent it to a few friends and suddenly the hens had a fan club. More cartoons were created and soon it was almost a daily event,” Panepinto explained. 

“Dr. Bonnie Henry was on the TV daily with her advice on social distancing and masks so one hen was named Bonnie Hen with appropriate cartoons on her recommendations. Then one friend asked ‘where are her shoes?’ and another cartoon was born.”

Panepinto created on-topic cartoons that reference social distancing, Henry’s mantras and, yes, the health officer’s sense of style. 

When restaurants were permitted to reopen, she made a cartoon warning the chickens they’d better lay more eggs or risk going into the deep fryer.

“Creating the cartoons was a fun distraction during the quiet time we had during the height of the pandemic and hopefully it brought a smile to my friends too,” Panepinto said. 

Since Panepinto regularly puts together photo books of her images she thought it would be fun to make a collection of the pandemic cartoons. 

She ordered a limited edition set featuring 25 cartoons and sent the books as gifts to some of the hens’ loyal followers in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. She also gave one of the limited-edition copies to the farmer who owns the flock and sent one to Dr. Henry, along with a card and a letter. 

While Panepinto had not heard from Henry as of last week, she hopes the gift lands well.

“I think eventually I might hear back from her, but I’m sure she has other things to do,” she said. “I’m hoping she gets a chuckle out of it.”

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