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Review: Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Interrupting Chicken
By David Ezra Stein
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763641689
Grades K-2
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It seems like the term “meta” is thrown around quite a bit these days. When something is self-referential, it is meta. The song Formed a Band by Art Brut is meta. This t-shirt is meta:

In books, this concept comes home to roost as metafiction. In fact, Phillip Nel, director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature recently created an excellent video to explain metafiction in children’s lit. Take a look:

In addition to the books Mr. Nel discusses, I would include Melanie Watt’s Chester series and Kevin O’Malley’s Once Upon a Cool Biker Dude. Add the supremely clever Interrupting Chicken to this list as well. Actually, move it to the top of the list, since it will surely go down as one of the best picture books of 2010.

Papa  is trying to read little chicken a bedtime story, but it isn’t going well. As soon as the story begins, chicken interrupts to hilariously insert herself into the story and prevent trouble. When Hansel and Gretel are about to go into the old woman’s house, chicken can’t be contained:

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!

This sequence of events spoils three classic tales when an exasperated Papa finally asks chicken to write one of her own. But the tables turn and Papa interrupts chicken’s story – with a loud snore.

Stein uses a unique collection of media (*deep breath* watercolor, water-soluble crayon, china marker, pen, opaque white ink) with unique results. Warm and vivid, the illustrations perfectly capture the setting of a bedroom at night.

The segments where other stories come into play (when papa is reading famous fables, when chicken creates her own story) are particularly memorable, because they each employ a completely different style than the rest of the book, adding a nice touch of authenticity.

A story about reading stories that will work during storytime. Sounds sort of complicated, but read Interrupting Chicken and it’s easy to see what this is – an expertly crafted, funny, engaging title that should be a part of every collection.

Review copy from library.

Watch the Interrupting Chicken book trailer:

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Oh, I’ve been hearing SO much about this book. Must get a copy. SOON!

    (Safe to assume this will be nominated for the Cybils, right??)

  2. I love this book and I think that, as I note in a post I’m gonna throw up tonight, David Ezra Stein is gonna go far. Man, he’s good.

  3. Love it! My daughter and I read it as if it were us at night. Delightful book to use when emphasizing fluency and expression.