13 August 2010

Blog Tour: Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Ah.....the joys of bedtime stories. The snuggling. The sharing. The interrupting. The interrupting? That's right folks. In David Ezra Stein's new picture book gem, Interrupting Chicken, interrupting is both a plot device and a reassurance, as a little girl shares the time-honored tradition of reading before bed with her Papa. In fact, reading a story is vital--she simply can't fall asleep without one. Yet despite her good intentions to let the words lull her to sleep, the little chicken is continually wound-up by the crisis presented in each tale her Papa tells. Instead of relaxing, she is fretting. And fretting leads to action as, with a well placed, comical interruption, she takes control of each story and finds a short-cut to "happily ever after." After three failed story-telling attempts, the book takes another humorous turn when the daughter tries to read a story to her Papa. All's well that ends well, for this night at least.

Like a self-referential film, this is a story about reading aloud which is quite a good read-aloud itself. The text is snappy, and the visual humor never lets up, from Little Chicken's over-sized wattle, to her thoroughly interactive reading experience. Stein lays out each story as it looks to Papa when he reads, and consequently we get the full effect of the little chicken's interruption when she literally bursts into every story, giving a new, visual meaning to the term "fractured fairytale." The chaos between the pages establishes a nice counterpoint to the quieter action in the house, where we watch the father become ever-more frustrated with his daughter, who clearly shows no signs of falling asleep.

INTERRUPTING CHICKEN. Copyright © 2010 by David Ezra Stein. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Looking back at the Stein canon so far, Interrupting Chicken touches upon themes we have seen before; the "I've got your back" sentiments of The Nice Book; the parent/child relationship and all the safety it promises in Pouch; the unique way that the young view the world in the award-winning Leaves. But this book raises a rather intelligent point about the power of stories and the investment readers make to the written word. Little Chicken cares so deeply about the characters in her storybook that she simply can't bear the thought of them facing danger. She rewrites the stories to her liking, so that the only casualty is her own bedtime. It's not quite fan fiction, but it gets the job done.

As part of this blog tour I was given the opportunity to put five questions to David Ezra Stein, which he kindly took the time to answer.

NJFK: It has to be asked: were you an interrupting chicken yourself?

DES: Yes I believe I was. My mother tells me that she never completed a conversation (like with an adult) till I was in school. I was kind of like Roo from Winnie-the-Pooh, always wanting her to "look at me jumping." Now I have a much bigger audience, but being an artist is still, in a way, about saying to the world, "look what I can do!"

NJFK: What are some of your own favorite read-aloud stories?

DES: There is a short story by Chekov called "The Siren" that my wife and I like to read aloud once in a while. It is full of delicious descriptions of food. On a younger note, I have always loved to read aloud James Marshall's "George and Martha" books. I also love "Little Bear" and "Frog and Toad". And Dr. Seuss and Madeline! since they rhyme in such a successful way. They are all stories that were read to me as a child and still delight me now.

NJFK: What comes to you first--the story or the images?

DES: Neither! The idea usually comes first, usually as a feeling, or a particular relationship between characters that I want to explore further. It's a poetic way of writing, I suppose. Then the words and the art help to crystallize that feeling and make it real and understandable to others.

NJFK: Are there any writers for whom you would love to illustrate, or favorite stories you would like to interpret yourself?

DES: I would love to illustrate a classic adventure story like Treasure Island, or an ancient legend. Something with battles! Testosterone is hard to come by in the 0–5 market. Interrupting Chicken did let me explore illustrating some fairy tales and I'd like to go further. I am always looking for a new challenge.

NJFKCan we look forward to more Cowboy Ned and Andy--I have to confess that they are a personal favorite with me :)

DES:  I do love Cowboy Ned and Andy, and kids ask about them from time to time. If they had a new story they really wanted to tell they might indeed ride again! Someday.

A big thank you to David Ezra Stein for the interview, and to Candlewick Press for providing me with a copy of the book. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour and check out other reviewers' take on this entertaining and engaging picture book.

I can't finish, though, without giving the little chicken the final word.

1 comment:

Stephen Macquignon said...

very nice interview,
I always enjoy reading how other artist work

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