Stein, D. E. (2010). Interrupting chicken. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.
Papa chicken is putting little chicken to bed. She loves bedtime stories, but she has a habit of interrupting them. She keeps trying to be “good”, but when a character is about to make a bad decision she can’t but help but offer her advice. What will happen when Papa runs out of stories? Can Chicken write her own story for her sleepy papa?
This is a fantastic book. Firstly, Stein has clearly spent a lot of time around kids. Chicken embodies the simultaneously annoying and adorable characteristics of a precocious, enthusiastic four or five year old reader. Beautiful and varied illustrations along with dialogue which perfectly captures both a parent’s and a kid’s voice set this book apart. Stein’s characters are very relatable, they are clever and they are sweet. Endearingly, Papa’s affection for Chicken remains apparent throughout, even while his little girl is exhausting him.
“You did it again. You interrupted two stories, and you’re not even sleepy!”
“I know, Papa! I’m sorry! But he was a mean old wolf.”
“Yes. Now get back into bed.”
“Okay, Papa. Let’s try one more little story, and I’ll be good!”
On the surface, this could be a silly story to help kids learn not to interrupt. But I think there is much, much more going on here. Chicken inspires kids to write. She gets kids thinking about the nature of literature and the power of an author’s voice, as well as that of omnipotence. She gets kids thinking about how literature affects them AND how they affect literature. She gets kids thinking about interpreting literature through their own lenses. She inspires kids to see the power of perspective and using that power to help others. Remarkable!
I read this book to a group of four and five year olds and they loved it. They made me read it again right after we finished it. They didn’t talk with me about the nature of omnipotence. They just thought it was silly and hilarious. Whether or not they are aware of it on a conscious level, they are considering the nature of perspective in storytelling and the nature of omnipotence, among many other things. This is why I don’t just like this book; I’m excited and inspired by it.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2010 (Vol. 78, No. 13))
Despite repeated vows to stop interrupting, a little red chicken can’t resist jumping in to cut her Papa’s bedtime tales short with plot giveaways—”DON’T GO IN! SHE’S A WITCH!”—and truncated, happy endings. Endowing his poultry with flamboyantly oversized combs and wattles, Stein switches between stylish but cozy bedroom scenes and illustrations from each attempted story (into which little red chicken forcibly inserts herself) done in a scribbly, line-and-color style reminiscent of Paul Galdone’s picture-book fairy tales. Having run out of stories, exasperated Papa suggests to little red chicken that she make one up for him, which she does in laborious block print on lined paper, complete with crayoned stick-figure illustrations. Closing with an intimate snuggle after Papa instantly dozes off, this tender iteration of a familiar nighttime ritual will be equally welcomed by fond parents and those children for whom listening to stories is anything but a passive activity.
Carolyn Phelan (Booklist, Sep. 15, 2010 (Vol. 107, No. 2))
At bedtime, Papa prepares to read an old favorite to the little red chicken, but before beginning, he reminds her not to interrupt the story. Reassured, he begins Hansel and Gretel, but just as the two children approach the witch s house, up pops the little red chicken, exclaiming DON T GO IN! SHE S A WITCH! . . . THE END! Two more attempted bedtime stories end abruptly with the little red chicken saving Little Red Riding Hood and Chicken Little. The childlike humor of this wonderfully illustrated picture book will bring belly laughs from kids, particularly those who know the original stories. Stein uses page turns dramatically to build tension, which is released each time the chicken interrupts and amends a fairy tale. Differences in medium and style differentiate between scenes taking place in the folktales and in the main story. Created with watercolor, water-soluble crayon, and pen and ink, the illustrations are vivid and dramatic. Great fun for reading aloud.
Use in Library:
While this book can be used to demonstrate the importance of waiting one’s turn and not interrupting, I like that Chicken interrupts. I like the way she actively engages with the story and I’d like to lead an activity that encourages kids to do the same thing. Reading a well known story and inviting students to interrupt with how they’d change it. Who knows what new creations the students might compose?