Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

I’m going to part from the general consensus and say quite frankly: This book did not work for me. I admit that part of my disappointment stems from the fact that I somehow got it into my head that it was going to be a beginning reader graphic novel by Doreen Cronin. I still think that was a great idea! However, I was quite pleased with the idea of a beginning chapter mystery. You can never have too many. But.

It’s faux noir. I have a huge beef with this weird sub-genre. It includes such series as Chet Gecko, Joey Fly, and more. I can see the temptation to spoof, satire, and imitate the noir mystery genre. All those witty one-liners! Short, pithy sentences! Cool, world-weary detectives! But…how many kids have the faintest idea what all those allusions are hinting at? Show me an eight year old who knows all about the great noir classics and I’ll…show you a very disturbed child? Now, there’s nothing wrong with pithy one-liners and a beginning chapter mystery can certainly work without kids getting the complete context. But.

This book confused me and I am not an eight year old working my way into chapter books. There were more cliff-hangers and sudden changes in character and plot in this story than a tornado in a bookshop. The final reveal…didn’t really make sense. At all. By then I was so confused I had to go read the book over again.

This might, of course, just be me. Everyone else seems to have found this book hilariously funny. These people for example:

A Patchwork of Books
Pink Me

So, maybe it's just me.
Verdict: I don’t trust my judgment on this one because of my personal dislike of faux noir and apparent temporary brain coma whilst trying to figure out the plot. Based on the strength of all the positive reviews, I purchased it anyways. I hope that was the right decision…I will try to remember to update this with kids’ reactions, since I passed the ARC on to some of my craft program kids.

[edited to add - yep, it was apparently just me. The couple kids loved the ARC, and the book has checked out regularly. I still think it's weird though.]

ISBN: 9780061215322; Published March 2011 by Balzer + Bray; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library.


Ms. Yingling said...

Sometimes a book just doesn't work for us, but it does for the kids. I still don't understand the appeal of this or of I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil. Sigh.

Jennifer said...

Sometimes I dislike something but I can see the appeal - like Wimpy Kid. But this one...I really wish it had been a graphic novel. Sigh.

The growing popularity of beginning chapter books in my library is wonderful on the one hand, but on the other hand it's reinforcing the disturbing trend I'm seeing - kids having more and more difficulty reading, poor vocabularies, so more and more kids are reading "younger" books and a dislike of reading that hits at about 5th or 6th grade - probably b/c of that difficulty reading.