Sunday, January 22, 2006
Dowell, Frances O’Roark. 2005. CHICKEN BOY. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689858167 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]
Tobin McCauley’s seventh grade year begins badly when Granny drives him to school on the first day. Arrested for parking her 1984 sky blue Toyota truck on the sidewalk, Granny makes a scene. Then she makes her case to the police officer by summing up Tobin’s sad life. “I’m all this boy’s got ‘cause his daddy’s good for nothing” she asserts. “His mama passed on when he was seven. Somebody’s got to take care of him.” By the second week of school he is suspended for fighting. The fight, however, changes everything: he makes a friend.
Henry, an eccentric classmate, saves Tobin from suffering a beating in defense of his teacher’s honor. Henry is passionate, even philosophical, about chickens. He eventually persuades Tobin to join him in raising chickens and to work with him on an extra credit assignment for science. Things look hopeful as Tobin begins to care about his chickens, to try writing an autobiography, and to run track at school. Then a call from Granny to CPS results in Tobin’s placement in foster care. The crisis brings Tobin’s grief-stricken father to his senses. Finally, the novel resolves optimistically after the wounded family begins to share memories of Tobin’s mother in therapy sessions.
Dowell’s poignant novel explores love, loss and the healing power of friendship. Its vividly quirky cast of characters and a plot—both unlikely and entirely believable—will spark genuine laughter and tears. Along the way, readers may also learn a thing or two about chickens. Like humans, they’re social creatures. Henry advises keeping “at least three at all times.”
Curious readers may want to know more about chickens. They can generate a list of research questions and gather resources before planning a presentation on these farm animals.
Damerow, Gail. YOUR CHICKENS: A KID’S GUIDE TO RAISING AND SHOWING. ISBN 0882668234
Feldman, Thea. WHO YOU CALLIN’ CHICKEN? ISBN 0810945932
Rauzon, Mark J. CHICKENS AND PEAFOWL: WHAT THEY HAVE IN COMMON. ISBN 0531116891
By Suzy Parchman