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Monday, February 28, 2011

Interrupting Chicken, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. Candlewick Press, Random House, 2010. $19.00 ages 3 and up

"Once there was a little
red chicken who put her
Papa to bed. She read
him a hundred stories. She
even gave him warm milk,
but nothing worked: he
stayed awake all - "

Oh boy, I can't wait to read this book to a good friend's class this week. I am going over to spend an hour with them on Wednesday and have been picking some of my favorite new books to share. Luckily, this one arrived in the mail today and it will certainly be in my book bag. I know they will love it! It is such a brilliant combination of story and art, of familiar and new (with a twist), and it offers a chance for its reader to use voice, inflection and a sense of fun in sharing it.

It's bedtime and it is obvious that Papa and his little one have shared this experience on any number of occasions. As they settle for a story Papa has some advice to offer about interruptions. It seems the little red chicken has a bad habit. But, Papa is willing to try the storytelling one more time. He begins with Hansel and Gretel, their hunger and their discovery of the candy house and the old woman who lives in it. Before you can say Jack Flash, his chick ushers a loud warning to the siblings about the old woman's real identity:

"out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, "DON'T GO IN! SHE'S A WITCH!" So Hansel and Gretel didn't. THE END!"

You know where we are going right??? Papa admonishes, the little one apologizes and makes a new promise, and on they go to the next story. It happens again and then again....each time eliciting the same wise counsel and a repeated assurance of compliance. It is not to be. Too soon the book concludes and the little red chicken is no closer to sleep than she was when she crawled into bed. Papa offers an acceptable solution, and off we go again! This final story does its job and soon both storytellers are sound asleep.

As happens with the best books, a winning blend of text and art will enthrall and entertain. Clues to the family's life are evident...a double page spread showing toys, books and other tell-tale signs of an indulged youngster in the house. There are books at every turn, a nearby stool for the reader to sit on while sharing bedtime stories, and much love shown between parent and child. The bright mixed media colors, the humorous expressions of the characters in the stories being read and the child-like writing and drawings in 'Chikn's' book are sure to delight.

It's a winner! It certainly makes me think of the many times that either David or I fell sound asleep while sharing bedtime tales with our kids. Gentle nudges would work to get us back on track; but there were times when the reading was done by the ones who were supposed to be doing the sleeping!

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