Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Children’s Book Review, Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

With the CBCA theme for Children’s Book Week 2017 being “Escape to Everywhere”, I’ve been looking for books that suit this theme. Here’s a charming children’s picture book by Leigh Hobbs, our Australian Children’s Laureate 2016-2017, about Mr Chicken and his adventures in Rome. It was published by Allen and Unwin (2016.) RRP: $Au24.99

From the publisher:

'Welcome to Rome,' says Mr Chicken's guide, Federica.

'Climb aboard my Vespa and hold on to your hat.'

Mr Chicken's childhood dream is about to begin...

Another triumph from the Australian Children's Laureate, acclaimed creator of Mr Chicken Goes to Paris and Mr Chicken Lands on London.

I admit to having a great weakness for children’s books about chooks, but surely everyone can see that Mr Chicken is a really cool and whacky character. He also reminds me a lot of myself - off to travel somewhere new? Step 1: read all the books you can on the subject. Step 2: try to learn the language. Mr Chicken also shares my enthusiasm for trying all the wonderful new flavours and textures in a new country’s foods!

I loved the sly humour in Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma. Our hero is seen travelling business class “for the fine food and extra leg room”. We notice in the illustration that Mr Chicken has rather stumpy chicken legs, but his girth makes him overflow onto the passenger next to him! That same girth almost dwarfs the Vespa he rides across Rome on. Like tourists all over the world, we see Mr Chicken/Senor Pollo taking a selfie in front of the Colosseum “to prove he had been there”, and we also see him doffing his tiny black hat to “remember his manners”. He eats lots of gelato and pasta and we see him once more on the final page, taking up even more space on that aeroplane seat.

Kids will love the humour and cartoonish detail of Hobbs’ illustrations, and I think they’ll enjoy practising some of the Italian words they’ll pick up from the book. Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma would make a great introduction to the Book Week theme, Escape to Everywhere. Students could find other books where characters visit different countries and cultures, making lists of what they know about other countries, and what they would like to know. Don’t forget that there are two other Mr Chicken books: Mr Chicken Lands on London, and Mr Chicken Goes to Paris.

Here’s a little teaser from the book.

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