by David Ezra Stein
by David Ezra Stein
2010 | 40 pages | Picture Book
In Interrupting Chicken, the 2011 Caldecott Honor book by David Ezra Stein, a chicken and her Papa sit down to read a series of classic fairy tales before it's time to go sleep. Chicken promises not to interrupt the stories, but then proceeds to do so time and again, unable to help herself. When she finally settles down, Papa reverses the roles by falling asleep and interrupting the last story with his snoring.
When I was reading this, I focused mostly on the art, since that's what won the award, and once I started looking carefully at the illustrations, I realized how truly brilliant they are.
The title page draws us into the story with a spread showing a quiet and empty house, with low lamps burning, and various items left lying around, illustrating how Chicken and Papa must have spent their day. This picture is warm and homey and felt very realistic to me. Especially impressive is the way Stein uses light to indicate that night has fallen, and that the house is dark and quiet.
On the verso side of that first page, there is one full page of gorgeous green wallpaper, followed on the recto side by a field of white with one circle in the center. Inside that circle, Papa helps Chicken into her pajamas. Over the next few pages, the reader is drawn in closer and closer to the bed - the white space surrounding the images slowly disappears with each page turn, until the entire page is filled with color, and it feels like the reader is all tucked in along with Chicken.
From here, we zoom in even further and settle on the pages of the book as Papa starts to read. The pages themselves have lots of neat details, including food particles and other objects left behind in the crevices. Papa begins reading the standard fairy tale texts, but each time, Chicken explodes onto the pages with warnings for the stories' characters. When this happens, the old fashioned looking illustrations within the fairy tales react to Chicken with annoyance, and rearrange themselves on the page to accommodate her outbursts. She keeps promising not to interrupt, but keeps it up anyway as they attempt to read Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little. In the end, Chicken ends up writing her own story, with amazingly child-like crayon illustrations, and truly realistic misspellings, such as "Chikn."
In addition to being visually appealing, this book fills the need for more picture books featuring fathers and daughters, and especially fathers reading to their kids. It would make a nice father's day read for families, and maybe even a nice gift for fathers, since the humor here will appeal easily to adults as well as children. David Ezra Stein's other picture books include: Pouch, Leaves, Monster Hug!, The Nice Book, Cowboy Ned and Andy, and Ned's New Friend. His website can be found at davidezra.com.
I borrowed Interrupting Chicken from my local public library.
It's National Poetry Month! I'm celebrating by linking to a favorite poem at the end of every review I post in April. Today's poem is Litany by Billy Collins.