Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Wearied parents everywhere will appreciate this tale of a chicken child Who. Will. Not. Stop. Interrupting. the bedtime story ritual. As you may have guessed from the title (and the cover art), this is indeed a book about a chicken who interrupts.

Papa Chicken is putting his daughter to bed, and as so many children do, Little Chicken insists on the proper bedtime ritual, omitting nothing: in this case, weary Papa Chicken must read a bedtime story…but does it end there? Of course not! He admonishes his daughter NOT to interrupt, as she’s supposed to be calming down for bedtime so she can go to sleep. Instead, rather she (surprise, surprise) INTERRUPTS not one but three stories. The first is Hansel and Gretel, when she inserts “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!” Little Red Riding Hood and Chicken Little evoke similar responses, and similar apologies from the little chicken. (In fairness, I can sympathize, and I expect a good many children can as well; how many times do parents tell their children “Don’t Talk To Strangers!” and isn’t that exactly the point of Little Red Riding Hood?) In the end, the exasperated and very sleepy Papa Chicken says “Why don’t you tell a story?” Startled, the little red chicken takes him up on it…but Papa doesn’t last three sentences. Little Red Chicken kisses her bespectacled papa goodnight and crawls into bed with him.

I’d recommend it for kids who’ve outgrown simpler books such as Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus or Jules Pfeiffer’s Bark, George; books such as they are better for kids too young, too immature or too inexperienced to sit through a story with a plot, even so simple a one as Interrupting Chicken, not to mention the problem that Interrupting Chicken is a lot funnier if you have some clue how the disrupted fairy tales in the books are supposed to go…and have begun to grow weary of the same old same old over and over and over again. I think I’m right in remembering that there’s a developmental phase that many kids go through in which they find amusing stories that twist or alter the tired old chestnuts; call Interrupting Chicken an instructional manual for kids who, though they won’t be able to spell it for another couple of decades, already understand perfectly the concept of “subverting the dominant paradigm”.

What to read next? Well, there are a lot of picture books out there for kids in this phase (kids of all ages). Just ask any children’s librarian. I’d suggest starting with books like Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, The Three Little Pigs by David Wiesner, (or Jon Scieska’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) or Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett.

Just to name a few…I’d welcome suggestions for more.


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