Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise
David Ezra Stein
Walker Books

Little Chicken is back and she’s full of what she’s just learned at school. “My teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise” she says excitedly. Papa puts her right, responding, “She was talking about an element of surprise,” and goes on to explain.
Papa shares stories with her to prove his point but Chicken remains unconvinced and eager to find those surprising elephants.

Needless to say she manages to do so; first in The Ugly Duckling, then Rapunzel and finally, The Little Mermaid.
Each time Papa opens the storybook, Stein changes his illustrative style. Instead of the bright warm tones of their abode, his story scenes are rendered in sepia pen and ink

into which at the appropriate time, he drops a friendly-looking little blue elephant.

In a final story – one penned by Papa and deftly illustrated by Chicken – despite Papa’s best efforts to prevent it, that elephant of surprise puts in an appearance there too. Seems there’s no getting away from the little pachyderm.

This sequel to Interrupting Chicken had me spluttering with delight from the outset and the fun cleverly built up throughout the story. Who wouldn’t be in fits of giggles over that baby blue elephant, first with feathered swan-like wings, then wearing very long plaits and finally, a grass skirt and coconut bra. (I had to put my coffee aside for fear of sending it flying as hysterics overtook me at that sight.)
Another absolutely cracking metafictive tale to delight both adult story readers and young listeners alike. It also has great classroom potential.

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