Please, little red chicken, interrupt! It means you’re paying attention!
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein captures the essence of the experience of a child reading aloud with a loving adult. In the opening wordless scene, we detect hints of the ceaseless energy of the young chicken before she ever appears. Once she’s in her pajamas, she asks for a story, and Papa says, “Of course, you are not going to interrupt the story tonight, are you?” We know that she will (though she promises, “I’ll be good”), and we can’t wait.
When she breaks into the story to warn Hansel and Gretel about the witch--and to take part in the other two stories--it’s clear that the little red chicken knows these stories by heart. My favorite aspect of the book is the way the little red chicken imagines herself as a character in each story. She believes she can save Little Red Riding Hood from the Wolf. In Stein’s artwork, the little red chicken literally appears as a character alongside the red-caped star and the villain who would, if left to carry out his mission, swallow the girl’s granny. In an interview, Stein discussed the process of creating this clash of the "real" and storybook worlds. (He received a 2011 Caldecott Honor citation for Interrupting Chicken.) The feathered heroine is a riot of color in a sepia-toned world. She is shaking things up.
The captivating little chicken at the center of this story is smart and spirited, she loves her Papa, and she cares about the characters in her books and wants to help them. We can imagine her becoming a passionate and involved member of her classroom and community. The best books enhance and help to develop those qualities in a child, by opening up a discussion between the child and someone who cares about him or her--someone who has a wider experience of the world and can help to process all that a young person is learning from hour to hour. So maybe it’s worth moving up bedtime just a bit, just enough to allow for those interruptions.