Monday, March 14

Interrupting Chicken

by David Ezra Stein  
Candlewick Press  2010  

Bedtime, and little Chicken just can't seem to fall asleep...

Indeed, just as Papa begins a bedtime fairy tale Chicken jumps up and interrupts.  She warns Hansel and Gretel away from the witch, Red away from the Wolf, and tell Chicken Little that the sky is really just an acorn. Finally Papa gets the idea to have Chicken read him a bedtime story and before she can even get into her own made-up tale Papa is asleep.  

Chicken's desire to not only tell the story but prevent the dangers inherit in the stories rings true as children learn not only to recognize stories but that the power of storytelling rests with the teller.  Chicken isn't attempting to co-opt storytime, she simply cannot help herself.  The only problem is that it doesn't calm her down for bedtime but instead makes her more agitated.  I suspect this story will ring true with a large number of adults and their bed time wards.  

Although it has all the basic elements -- familiar setting, twist on expectations, rule of threes -- I felt like it missed a step somewhere, some hitch in the rhythm.  Like ho when you read a book and you go from mid sentence on the bottom of one page and pick up mid sentence on the next and it takes a few more sentences before you realize you've skipped a page.  That I can't isolate what is missing doesn't make the book flawed more than it gnaws at me.  In fiction when this happens it's usually a question of character, or a lack of well-developed main characters, but with picture books this is replaced with emotion.  I get that Chicken is impatient and has her reasons for wanting to interrupt, but maybe its because I don't know why she does this?  Like I said, there's nothing in Chicken's (or any child's) behavior in interrupting familiar stories that is out of step, so I can't put my finger on it any better than a question some vague emptiness.  

Does the story feel to short?  Too quickly resolved?  

I guess after Leaves and Pouch, with their fully-rounded sense of story, I've come to expect walking away from Stein's books feeling more satisfied. Maybe sated is a better word, because there isn't anything necessarily unsatisfying about Interrupting Chicken.  Well, except for that thing I can't quite put my finger on. 
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