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Silly Chicken

by Rukhsana Khan, Yunmee Kyong, illus.

Rukhsana Khan’s new picture book gives a delightful twist to the classic plotline of a young child’s jealousy about sharing her mother’s attention and affection. The rival in this case is not a younger sibling, but a chicken. Mother Ami singles out one of her hens as needy and interesting, and devotes far more attention to her than little Rani thinks is appropriate; Rani calls the bird “silly chicken” and mentions its suitability for dinner. The story resolves itself with a little sadness and a clever surprise, as Rani discovers that chickens can indeed be lovable.

Told in Rani’s voice, Silly Chicken suggests strong feelings about family relationships and the need for love, without becoming sentimental or didactic. While the story is universal, its charm is enhanced by its setting in rural Pakistan. Khan (who was born in Pakistan, but has lived in Toronto for many years) is able to imply the setting with just a few details – drinking glasses of ice-cold lassi, travelling by tonga, and so on.

More of the local atmosphere comes through the glowing illustrations by Yunmee Kyong. The sun-baked gold tones of the ground set off the brilliant colours of the clothing and houses; Rani’s flat-roofed house is enclosed by a walled courtyard with a pond, trees, and animals; street vendors are seen selling an intriguing variety of wares as Ami and Rani travel through the village. In the expressive figures of the characters – including the chicken – Kyong’s empathy and humour also effectively add to the text. For both its unusual and beautifully conveyed setting, and for its appealing story, Silly Chicken is an excellent addition to any picture book library.


Reviewer: Gwyneth Evans

Publisher: Viking/Penguin


Price: $23.5

Page Count: 32 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-670-05912-9

Released: Mar.

Issue Date: 2005-5

Categories: Picture Books

Age Range: 4-8