Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma
Allen & Unwin, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
What’s next when the fun and focus of Book Week is over? A new Mr Chicken adventure of course!!
With his insatiable appetite for travel, Mr Chicken, Citizen of the World, takes us on his latest exploits. This time he is in Rome and from endpaper to endpaper it is a feast of fun. Armed with his Very Frequent Flyer card, a list of things to see and some handy phrases, Mr Chicken arrives in Rome keen to explore his childhood dreams of Ancient Roman life and places. With his guide Federica he’s off to see some ruins and meet some real Romans, although the departing view of him on Federica’s Vespa is a bit disturbing and is one of those things that can never be unseen!
As with his previous visits to Paris and London, he visits the main tourist sights, often becoming more of an attraction than the attraction itself. The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain (where he takes a dip to cool off much to the entertainment of the crowds) are all on his itinerary and provide endless opportunities for photographs. But what would Italy be without gelato and pasta? And which pasta – spaghetti, cannelloni, penne, tortellini, papalina or tagliatelle? Or all of them? Decisions, decisions. Left on his own for the afternoon, he takes a nap and his dreams take him to the Rome of long ago where he is the star until…
Luckily his nightmare is interrupted by the return of Federica who is taking him to her family for dinner, This time Mr Chicken is in charge of the Vespa and brings a whole new meaning to the madness of traffic in Rome. But all too soon it is time to say “Arrivederci” to this fascinating place and create an album of all those selfies he took.
In his iconic style that is so familiar to younger readers, Leigh Hobbs has once again created the most enjoyable ‘travelogue’ of one of the world’s greatest cities and as well as offering a wonderful adventure with the indomitable Mr Chicken that children will love, he’s also provided a terrific teaching tool to show our youngest students that there is a world beyond their town. Some of the best lessons I’ve ever given have focused on Mr Chicken’s adventures as we’ve read the books, used Google Earth to explore each city and its significant places and then wound up with examining our local community for the places Mr Chicken would have to see if he came to our town. Superb for exploring built and manmade features, discussing those things that are unique to the area and getting the children to not only discover their surroundings but also draw them and tell their stories.
Now Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016 and 2017, Leigh Hobbs has come from behind his drawing board to be in the spotlight and is a perfect candidate for an author/illustrator study. There’s an interview with him from Story Box and a Q&A with ABC Splash at / ; an interview with The Australian and Mirrors Windows Doors /; and soon there will be a plush toy available too. He’s even produced the Story Calendar which features all his characters – Mr Chicken, Mr Badger, Old Tom and Horrible Harriet and which inspires readers to explore a new type of story every month!
So if you’re concerned that the current spotlight on the library might dim soon, Leigh Hobbs and Mr Chicken are guaranteed to turn it back to full beam.