Keith Graves's Chicken Big
Book review by Dimitrios Sokolakis
Differences can be advantages
Big, humongous news on a teeny little farm, in an itty-bitty coop! A small, tiny, itsy-bitsy, Lilliputian hen laid a giant egg. To no one’s surprise a humongous yellow chick popped out. How on earth did this happen? Four brave farm chickens are designated to solve the humongous lad’s case and identify the real, authentic, actual, irrefutable truth behind the egg mystery.
Our clueless fowls' first conclusion occurs in no time. The smallest and dumbest chicken announces that the humongous chick - Chicken Big - is an elephant. What else could he be? Each defective detective makes its own judgment. “He is too big to stay in the itty-bitty coop,” says the little rooster. “Much much too big,” clucks the small chicken. “He‘ll break the floor,” clucks the smaller chicken, while the smallest lamebrain chicken squawks, “Indoor elephants are dangerous.”
Case closed; the thing is an elephant. Let’s exclude him from our coop; they all decide.
However, new evidence comes to light: the next day an acorn falls on the smallest chicken’s head. “The sky is falling” she peeps and everyone yells “Run for your lives!”
“Don’t worry” says the big humongous yellow elephant. “It’s only an acorn,” he says and eats it. Hmmm, “elephants don’t eat acorns” the team recognizes, reopening the case only to conclude that the chicken that became an elephant is now a squirrel!
Following that, rain falls from the sky. “The sky is leaking, run for your lives,” screams the smallest chicken. “Relax” says the yellow elephant-squirrel. “Come stand under my wings and you will stay dry.”
The new data requires a new conclusion. The big yellow thing eats acorns and keeps you dry in the rain. As a result, everyone reconsiders: he must be an umbrella!
Suddenly more information needs to be assimilated. The wind is blowing, and everyone stands behind the humongous chick to keep warm. He is definitely a sweater, the team concludes. "This is getting ridiculous,” the yellow elephant-squirrel-umbrella declares, annoyed.
At naptime, the little chickens return to the coop and find all their eggs gone! Everybody begins to boo hoo hoo, but the humongous chick notices a thief: fox. By making three giant leaps he catches up to the fox, saving the day and, of course, the eggs.
All the chickens are really happy, but the conundrum still exists. What can be so smart, so kind, so warm and so brave? “A cow” (!) says the brainless chick. “NO,” everybody else yells, “A CHICKEN!” Duh!
Case solved. Big chick is happy finally finding out his identity, while his new little friends make room for him to stay in the coop.
But… wait a minute! The humongous chick snores at night like an elephant.
Hmmm... Should we reopen the case?
Chicken Big strengths:
A story hilarious and surprisingly instructive at the same time. It manages, in a funny and discreet way, to communicate values such as accepting diversity and not judging someone by the cover. During the course of the story, farm chickens look at big chick’s outward appearance alone. In the end they recognize precious inward qualities characterizing him, such as kindness, warmness and braveness; this makes them accept him as a valuable friend.
The book has many memorable lines (my personal favorite: “Indoor elephants are dangerous”). Parents will like it; children will love it.
Chicken Big manages to totally mess with our notion of Chicken Little, but in such a remarkable way that it becomes a totally different story. My respects to the author.
Last but not least, the illustrations are engaging, fitting beautifully with the story’s flow.
Room for improvement:
Hmmm, quite difficult to identify; you see, I’m still laughing…
Okay, perhaps something minor: the story’s main character is the humongous chick, but I feel that the rest of lovely and brave farm chickens also deserve a place on the book's cover.
Chicken Big is an itty-bitty story that'll provoke huge laughs!
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