The Chicken Dance

The Chicken Dance

Book - 2007 | 1st U.S. ed.
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On his birthday, Don Schmidt spends the day waiting patiently for his big surprise-- a cake, presents, maybe a Chinese clown . . . . But instead, his batty parents get into their monthly argument. This time it's because his mother has to feed the chickens. It ends with her shouting the same thing as always about their Louisiana chicken farm: "I hate it here!"
What follows is Don's journey from obscurity to fame and back again, when he becomes the youngest kid to ever win the Horse Island Dairy Festival chicken-judging contest. Gradually, his mom notices that something strange is going on--everyone knows her son!--but once she realizes that Don has become the town celebrity, she sees that there may be benefits to living on a chicken farm. What she doesn't seem to see are the benefits of having a son like Don.
For Don, the contest is the beginning of a big, big adventure. It involves trips to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, fair weather friends, a missing sister, and one big secret. Readers will cheer for Don, who goes out of his way to see the good in everything.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2007.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9781599900438
Branch Call Number: COUVI
Characteristics: 326 p. ; 21 cm.


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Feb 27, 2011

This was not a bad book. On the contrary, Don/Stanley is a very developed character, and you really feel involved and care about what's going to happen to the kid, who clearly has potential but is held back by his family situation.

I was just rather put-off because I read it expecting a new-kid-has-a-quirky-adventure-type-book (like Hoot), but it was really about Don/Stanley dealing with his troubled family and social relationships. The whole chicken-judging thing becomes a subplot, and the book takes a darker turn as Don/Stanley tries to discover the truth about his sister Dawn, who has run away to New Orleans to become a "dancer."

A few reviews have compared the book to Catcher in the Rye, and that's a better comparison than the Napoleon Dynamite reference on the cover, though Don is a much more likeable character than Holden. Neither of them are objective narrators, and shrewd readers will be able to see things that the naive, optimistic Don cannot.

A good book for discussing, not a book to read for laughs or for people who don't like ambiguous endings.

Age: Suitable for mature 12-year-olds and up. There are a lot of mature themes in the book, and there are references to menstrual cycles, sex (nothing graphic, and what is mentioned is described from the POV of Don, who is naive), and there is some violence.

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