Monday, October 29, 2018

Review: Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein


It’s homework time for the little red chicken, who has just learned about something every good story should have: an elephant of surprise. Or could it be an element of surprise (as her amused papa explains)? As they dive in to story after story, looking for the part that makes a reader say “Whoa! I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Papa is sure he can convince Chicken he’s right. After all, there are definitely no elephants in “The Ugly Duckling,” “Rapunzel,” or “The Little Mermaid” — or are there? Elephant or element, something unexpected awaits Papa in every story, but a surprise may be in store for the little red chicken as well. Full of the same boisterous charm that made Interrupting Chicken so beloved by readers, this gleeful follow-up is sure to delight fans of stories, surprises, and elephants alike.

Chicken reminds me here of a certain little girl who MUST be right about everything, even when she is clearly wrong. Stein's original Interrupting Chicken is a staple here, as in most libraries, so I was excited when I saw this title. Personalities are the same, but the concept is different enough to be fresh. The blue cartoonish elephant jumps out from the otherwise old-fashioned, somewhat sepia story illustrations, allowing even small readers to point him (her?) out and say "there it is!"

My only qualms with this are that the traditional fairy tales, while just an excerpt of each, are a bit wordy for a read-aloud. I found myself skipping to the last lines of those, to get to the expected elephant. And since it was expected, was it really an elephant of surprise?  An elephant of silliness, at any rate, and that never goes wrong in a children's book.

***This book has been nominated for a Cybils Award. I am just one of many judges in this category, and my opinion should not be construed to mean inclusion on or exclusion from the final short list.

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