Friday, October 5, 2012

Chicken Dance - Jacques Couvillon

Don Schmidt didn’t know that when he turned eleven he’d find out that his name wasn’t really Don. And when he turned twelve, he’d stumble on a dark family secret that would change his world forever. Don was born in Shreveport, but moved with his parents to a chicken farm at Horse Island when he was a baby, about the time his sister, Dawn, died of Scarlet Fever. She was fifteen and a dancing champion. Don’s father inherited the chicken farm from his Uncle Sam. It came with a catch, however – at least twenty five chickens had to be farmed at all times and the farm must not be sold for ten years. His mother hates the chickens, referring to them as the ‘feathered curse’ and telling her friends she keeps them for ‘ambience’. Don on the other hand, loves them; they are his confidants. When no one will sit next to him at school and at home his mother and father only let him talk in the advertisement breaks on TV, the chickens become his friends – especially KC. Formerly Henrietta, the piano playing chicken, Don renames her after his favourite music group – KC and the Sunshine Band. Life can sometimes deal out a lucky card though, and Don becomes an overnight celebrity when he wins the Horse Island chicken-judging competition.
This is a wonderfully crafted story, loaded with empathy and a plot that has you burning the dinner while you read a few more pages. It takes an authentic look at issues such as friendship, resilience, loyalty, hope, acceptance, tolerance and conflict, with freshness and wicked humour. Couvillon wades intrepidly into the murky waters of unfaithfulness, teenage pregnancy, divorce, parental neglect, family secrets and the consequences of perpetuating lies and deception. There are many levels to this work that teachers will be able to use as a rich resource for students in around the ten to thirteen year old age group. A great read.

Allen&Unwin 2007

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