Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Interrupting Chicken

My Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) review today is Interrupting Chicken, a story that, in my opinion, is beyond hysterical. Seriously. If you’re craving a belly laugh, this book delivers!

But first… a little story from my own life to tie into today’s picture book review.

About eight years ago when I took my first serious step toward becoming a writer, I enrolled in a course at The Institute of Children’s Literature. My instructor offered valuable critiques on each of my monthly assignments, and I diligently took her suggestions to heart. The story I worked on was a middle grade, adventure novel. I had painstakingly created my main character to the point where part of me believed he existed. I knew my way blindfolded around his home. I could hear his thoughts. I could anticipate his reactions to any situation. Over the course of writing his story, he had become a close friend. (Anyone who has dedicated a fair stretch time to writing a book of fiction will relate.)

I awoke early to write. I tumbled into bed late, sad not to be conscious enough to take my character into the next chapter of his perilous adventure. At year’s end, I completed my manuscript and sent it to my instructor, ready to read her glowing review.

“I can tell from reading your story,” she said, “that you care greatly about your main character. In scenes when tension rises and danger nears, you protect him from harm.”

“Wait!” I scowled at her letter. “You’re making it sound like it’s something awful. If I don’t protect my main character, something might happen to him. He might get hurt!” (I’ll wait until you’ve stopped laughing.)

“Hurt him,” my instructor ordered. Nobody will spend a dime on your book if nothing happens. Put your main character at risk. Have the tree branch he’s sitting on break! Then, figure how to keep him alive on the way down. Just don’t kill him.”

“EXCUSE ME???” I said, still scowling at her letter. “But my main character is someone I created. He’s like my child. A good mother would never intentionally hurt her child.”

“Hurt him,” she said.

I returned to my computer. I scrolled to the first horrific encounter. With shaking hands, I dragged my main character out of the protective shadows and into harm’s way. I ducked when he ducked. I grimaced when pain inflicted his trembling body. He bled. I cried.

Enter my husband, home from a hard day at the office. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? What’s with the tears?”

“I am a terrible person!” I sobbed, drenching my laptop. “I just sat here and let my main character get hurt. It’s my fault he’s sprawled out in agony at the bottom of page 32. I am a terrible, horrible, despicable person.”

My husband offered a hug and a tissue to dry my keyboard.

My instructor applauded me. “You can call yourself a writer now,” she said.

And now for the big reveal. What does my story have to do with today’s picture book review?

In Interrupting Chicken, Chicken’s father tries to read a bedtime story, but each time he reaches the point where something bad will befall the main character, Chicken interrupts to save the main character from harm and finish the story early with a happy ever after ending. (Sound familiar?)

Title – Interrupting Chicken

Written and illustrated by  – David Ezra Stein

Published by – Candlewick Press – 2010

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Topics/Theme –  keeping the peace and humor

Opening –  

It was bedtime for the little red chicken.

“Okay, my little chicken,” said Papa. “Are you ready to go to sleep?”

“Yes, Papa! But you forgot something.”

“What’s that?” asked Papa.

“A bedtime story!”

Amazon Review –  View it HEREAwarded a 2011 Caldecott Honor!

It’s time for the little red chicken’s bedtime story —and a reminder from Papa to try not to interrupt. But the chicken can’t help herself! Whether the tale is HANSEL AND GRETEL or LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD or even CHICKEN LITTLE, she jumps into the story to save its hapless characters from doing some dangerous or silly thing. Now it’s the little red chicken’s turn to tell a story, but will her yawning papa make it to the end without his own kind of interrupting? Energetically illustrated with glowing colors —and offering humorous story-within-a-story views —this all-too-familiar tale is sure to amuse (and hold the attention of ) spirited little chicks.

Why do I like this book? The interrupting chicken has her heart in the right place. She adores all things peaceful and can’t bear to see anyone hurt – not if she can help it! (Hmmm. She reminds me of someone…) And at every tense story moment, Chicken jumps in to save the day! But it’s not just any hero that comes to the rescue of Hansel and Gretel, Chicken Little, and Little Red Riding Hood… It’s Chicken who jumps into the storybook pages to restore peace!
I found a fun video/school visit for you to watch on youtube with David Ezra Stein HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

Can I Quote Me?

Blog post after blog post, writers (myself included) love to quote the profound musings, thoughts, and philosophies of great writers and other famous individuals.

WHY?

Because we read those brilliant phrases and think to ourselves, gosh, I can’t believe how much Hemingway and I have in common. Imagine both of us feeling the same way about the writing process…. Sigh.

Don’t we all, in our various professions, (writers included) have thoughts worth sharing? Aren’t we all brimming with quotable feelings on the subjects closest to our hearts–thoughts so profound they deserve to go viral? Okay, I’ll back off a tad…. How about, quotable feelings so profound they deserve to get tweeted a few times?

Today, I have decided to quote someone who isn’t famous. She is a writer like so many other writers in the world. She sits at her computer daily, pouring out her inner most feelings, eats low-prep meals, drinks coffee in excess, dresses frumpy, celebrates the hole in her sweater, labeling it Wabi Sabi (see earlier post) for its natural, imperfect beauty, snarls at the ringing phone for snapping her from her stream of thought, ignores the precarious pile of crusty dishes in the sink, and sprays scented room freshener on the heap of smelly laundry. (Actually, it isn’t quite that bad…)

You’ve waited long enough. Drum roll, please…quote-me

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The Not So Lonely Life Of This Writer

My parents were what I would call organized, tidy, hoarders. Definitely not the clinical hoarders you might have seen on TV. You know the ones… they scramble over a precarious stack of broken electronic devices balanced at the back door. Empty boxes of macaroni and cheese stuffed between piles of worn-out shoes sit beside garbage bags filled with dated clothes ready to cushion the impact should someone stumble.

No. This does not describe my parents…

Organized, tidy hoarders are people who keep everything of importance (not immediate importance, mind you, but eventual or possible importance.) These individuals know where everything is months and years after filing them away.

It was after my father passed away that the family had to go through the household items, making piles labeled donate, garbage, and keep. My keep stack grew to a ridiculous height in a clinical attempt to preserve my memories of my parents. I have since returned to my senses and donated some of the items.

Back to my parent’s home…

My mother kept a box filled with every Valentine card she ever received next to a box of every birthday card she ever received. (Continue filling the virtual shelf with one box per card-giving holiday.)  My father kept magazines of interest filed with correspondences to editors, asking for more particulars. (About one and a half tons according to the haul-away man’s scale.)

SO WHAT HAS THIS GOT TO DO WITH WRITING? I’m getting to that…

So it didn’t surprise me to find a box filled with my old report cards, starting with kindergarten through high school.  What did surprise me was a comment which appeared year after year by different teachers.

Leslie doesn’t play with other children. She prefers to be by herself.

Can anyone say writer?

Some people use the word, lonely, to describe the life of a writer. And from the repeating comment on those old report cards, it sure sounds like I was lonely, but I’m one of those writers who doesn’t feel that way. Okay, okay…you’ve got me. Yes, I’m here at my computer, sharing my thoughts with you while my husband is at work and my daughter is at school. And no, besides my needy dog, a chatty parakeet, a baby Cockatiel, 5 croaking tree frogs, a bucket of chirping crickets to feed the croaking frogs, and a tank of quiet (and sometimes dead) fish, I am alone.

Alone but not lonely. (Seriously NOT LONELY.)

When I’m writing, I’m closest to my inner voice. I’m free to tap into myself for ideas, inspirations, childhood memories, and moments I want to explore through words.

When I’m working on a story, I’m spending time with my friends. Sure, they’re my imaginary human and animal companions, but as they are characters I brought to life, let life happen to, and spent months or years with, they’re real to me.

How many of you have created a character, brought him/her to life, had to make something happen to him/her (throw rocks but don’t kill) and found yourself aching over his/her pain?

And now… a brilliant quote from Robert Frost:Robert Frost

It isn’t the location that brings tears or surprises to the writer or reader, those tears and surprises come from our characters actions, reactions, and decisions to situations we place in their path.

Sure, we are alone when we’re writing, but I’d guess that there are many writers who feel as I do.

Do you have a favorite character you created? Why do you like that character so much? Are they like you? Are they similar to a close family member or friend? Or are they one of those villainous sorts so addicting to include in our writing?

I’d love to hear from you!