A Chicken Called Hope
Dirt Lane Press, 2023
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95
Hope the chicken is the captain of Courage, a somewhat ramshackle ship that crisscrosses the oceans of the world, relying on Hope’s blind faith that all would be well throughout its voyages. When Hope feels queasy she clucks out a tune until the feeling goes; when she feels tired she dozes in the breeze… But when the ship develops a leak, and, as usual, Hope procrastinates about fixing it things start to deteriorate and Hope finds that hope is not enough to save the ship, and she learns a powerful lesson about being proactive.
On the surface, this is a pleasant story that will engage young readers, particularly as they engage with the onomatopoeia as the drip, drip, dribble becomes larger and use the illustrations to tell the story that the words don’t. They might even explore the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine” and how such traditional sayings can still apply to modern life. What situations can they identify that that saying could apply to? Are there other sayings that might apply to Hope’s predicament?
But, in line with the publisher’s philosophy of “tackl[ing] important social issues cleverly disguised as narratives” there is an allegory that older readers might like to tease out and not only discuss the issues it raises but why an author might choose a picture book format to portray them, thus developing their literary understanding of the purpose and power of the picture book. It could also be an interesting exercise in perspective – do all the readers identify the same message and if so (or otherwise), why? They might even debate whether using a form of entertainment for children is a legitimate or ethical way to portray a political message, exploring the text-to-self and text-to-world connections, as well as suggesting others they have read with a similar theme. Food for thought that enables this book to be used across age groups.