Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chicken Big

Keith Graves

I will admit just looking at this book cover makes me laugh.  I guess there's just something about a really large chicken with a open footed stance that tickles my funny bone. So even before I opened it up, I was already wanting to like it. "Please don't suck, please don't suck."  It so doesn't suck! The giant chicken has a funny flattened haircut, the other chickens are equally awkward and weird - exactly how you want your literary chickens to appear.

This big, humongous chick hatched from a big, humongous egg, which sprang forth from a very small hen. I don't know how that happened, but there are mother hens wincing everywhere. Besides humongo, there are four main characters: little rooster, small chicken, smaller chicken and smallest chicken.  Flatly put, they are not a bright bunch. The smallest chicken has a penchant for blurting out inaccuracies, squawking "It's an elephant!" when she first spies the enormous chick. The coop is small, this chicken is not, and so he is banished for no fault of his own.

When an acorn (this part may seem familiar to readers) falls from the sky, landing squarely on the smallest chicken's head, she screeches "The sky is falling! Run for your lives!" That's where the similarities end. The giant chick calms the others, eating a pile of acorns to prove they are only a delicious snack and not the crumbling sky. He goes on to save the chickens from the terrors of rain, strong winds and a sly fox egg thief. To quote the big chick, "These are not bright chickens." 

The only thing I would change, and this is very minor, would be to name the darn chickens. I grew a wee bit tired of reading "the small chicken, the smaller chicken and the smallest chicken" every time they spoke.  Plus, I feel confident that someone who came up with all of this also has the aptitude to come up with fall-down-funny chicken names.  I feel a tiny bit cheated. 

That one negative is far outshadowed by all the positive factors. The chickens are funny. The illustrations are outstanding. The chickens use word bubbles to say things like "Buk Bok! and Awk!" The smaller chicken is amazingly moronic and makes insane statements. And there's a moral: the big chicken shows that just because he's big (and has a terrible haircut) it doesn't mean he's dumb. He's a nice guy with a big heart, which the other chickens eventually realize, allowing him back in the coop.   

Review copy provided by Chronicle Books.

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