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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Yes, Papa! And today my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise. So let's read a story, and we'll find the elephant." "Chicken, she wasn't talking about an elephant. She was talking about an element of surprise." "What's an element of surprise?"

David Ezra Stein won a well-deserved Caldecott Honor award for his first book about this feisty, imaginative and indomitable little red chicken. In the past eight years I have read Interrupting Chicken (Candlewick, 2010) innumerable times to children, teachers and teacher/librarians. It has everything you would want in a book to be read aloud to a group.

I didn't know I was missing her until this book arrived in the mail. She's in school now, and loves to bring what she has learned home to her Papa. Papa is ever willing to listen to what his chick has to say. In this case, he does his best to convince her that she has misheard a word from the teacher's lesson. It is element of surprise, not elephant. 

When she asks what an element of surprise is, he is quick to try to help her understand.

"It's the part of the story that makes you say, 'Whoa!
I didn't know that was going to happen,'" said Papa.

"An elephant in a story always makes me say, 'Whoa!'
So please, let's read a story together."

"All right, fine. But I don't expect you'll find
any elephants in this story...."

Saying that, he has not a clue about how wrong he is going to be.

Papa proceeds to voice the fairy tales in the book they are reading. Each one takes a hilarious turn when an elephant does indeed makes it presence known. On they go from The Ugly Duckling to Rapunzel, and to The Little Mermaid. Despite his assurance that there is no elephant in the tales he's reading, Chicken makes her point clear. There is an elephant in each one.

Together, they decide to write their own story. Papa will tell it, Chicken will supply the art. Will Papa win his point? What do you think?

Bright and homey artwork fills the pages that show the interaction between father and daughter. A distinct change occurs with each of the tales told. Those interludes are illustrated to grab attention and provide details while packing just the punch needed to up the humor and provide a focus for what Chicken has been learning at school. So much fun! You won't want to stop reading and your listeners will not want you to stop.

What a treat!

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