PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Imagine! by Raul Colon/Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein


 A wordless picture book about a visit to the museum and the power of art and imagination.

After passing a city museum many times, a boy finally decides to go in. He passes wall after wall of artwork until he sees a painting that makes him stop and ponder. Before long the painting comes to life and an afternoon of adventure and discovery changes how he sees the world ever after.


I love this book for several reasons.  I love the book because of the gorgeous art.  Colon has become one of my favorite illustrators for this reason.  The second thing I love about the book is the theme revolving around the power of imagination to help see and experience things we couldn't otherwise.  In the book which is wordless, a young boy leaves his home, crosses a bridge, and visits an art museum.  But as in so many other books that involve youngsters interacting with art in unusual ways (Journey by Aaron Becker, and Harold and the Purple Crayon come to mind) things change quickly.  Some of the characters interact with the boy and then step out of their frames to go on an adventure with him, outside of the museum.  After returning the characters to the museum the boy returns home, but along the way he sees the side of what seems to be an abandoned, lonely looking building.  He stops and paints a picture of the adventure he and his 'friends' just went on, finally returning home a changed boy.  It was interesting to read about the artist's reasons for creating the book, which he details in his author's note.  The choice of characters from real life paintings also makes for some interesting pondering.  All in all a wonderful book about the possibilities of art and human creativity. 



Surprise! The little red chicken is back -- and as endearingly silly as ever -- in David Ezra Stein's follow-up to the Caldecott Honor-winning Interrupting Chicken.

It's homework time for the little red chicken, who has just learned about something every good story should have: an elephant of surprise. Or could it be an element of surprise (as her amused papa explains)? As they dive in to story after story, looking for the part that makes a reader say "Whoa! I didn't know that was going to happen," Papa is sure he can convince Chicken he's right. After all, there are definitely no elephants in "The Ugly Duckling," "Rapunzel," or "The Little Mermaid" -- or are there? Elephant or element, something unexpected awaits Papa in every story, but a surprise may be in store for the little red chicken as well. Full of the same boisterous charm that made Interrupting Chicken so beloved by readers, this gleeful follow-up is sure to delight fans of stories, surprises, and elephants alike.


Sequels aren't always as good as the originals.  But this one is just as delightful and laugh-inducing.  I love the relationship between Little Chicken and her father.  Her enthusiasm balances sweetly against his efforts to correct her misunderstanding.  He tries to explain to her that her teacher didn't mean that every story has an "elephant" of surprise in it but an "element" of surprise.  But Little Chicken doesn't believe her father and as they read together is delighted to point out to her startled father the 'elephant' of surprise that keeps appearing.  Once again the stories within the story make for some fun reading as things don't turn out the way one might expect.  This delightful read has plenty of surprises of it's own and makes for fun read for both parent/teacher and child.  Adults will relate to Papa's exasperation and fondness for Chicken.  And children will relate to Chicken's surety that she heard her teacher correctly.  A worthy sequel and fabulous story all on it's own. One of my favorites of the year.


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