Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise

David Ezra Stein. Candlewick, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-8842-4
In the eponymous Chicken’s post–Caldecott Honor book, she learns something new in school: “Every story has an elephant of surprise.” Papa—whose bright red crest and spade-shaped feet match Chicken’s—gently explains that it’s element, not elephant. To demonstrate, Papa reads “The Ugly Duckling.” The storybook open on Papa’s lap, Stein’s art transforms from the smudgy, warm tones of the cozy reading nook to a pastoral storybook scene rendered in pen and ink. As the Ugly Duckling is about to glimpse his reflection, a page turn introduces a blue elephant wearing wings: “Surprise! I’m an elephant!” The elephant returns in readings of “Rapunzel” (with thick braids) and “The Little Mermaid” (sporting a bikini). A final story—written by Papa and illustrated by Chicken—demonstrates that, despite Papa’s best efforts, the “elephant of surprise” is here to stay. Stein masterfully builds suspense with each imbedded story, for a gag that only gets more fun with each reveal. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/23/2018
Release date: 09/11/2018
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