| Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Yunmee Kyong,
Viking-Penguin Group, 2005.
Rani is a little girl in rural Pakistan, where she and her widowed mother live in a small village. Rani thinks her mother loves the chicken Bibi better than herself. "She's such a silly hen. I've never seen any other chicken with long, gangly legs and a silly look on her face... Chickens belong in the yard!" Bibi had found a place in Ami's heart when she got sick, and Ami brought her into the house. Rani was incensed when her mother had her build a nest for Bibi, including and old dress of Rani's. When she bumped her knee, Ami didn't' care but that chicken sneezed and Rani has to find sticks for a nest! What next? Surprisingly Bibi lays and egg, which Ami decides to put in a tiny dish in the cupboard. At least that silly chicken finally figured out that she needed to sit down to lay an egg.
When Rani and her mother return from a visit to her father's grave, they discover that Bibi is missing. A few feathers and dog prints in the dust tell the tale. Rani was sure she'd locked the gate, but Ami isn't convinced. A couple of weeks go by while Ami mourns the loss of Bibi. One day, they hear a tiny sound coming from the kitchen. Opening the cupboard carefully, Rani sees the "cutest, fluffiest little chick" she's ever seen, whom she names Bibi Ki Buchi, which means Bibi's child. now Ami thinks Rani loves Buchi more than her. Isn't that silly?
This tale of sibling rivalry combines Khan's talented storytelling with Kyong's colorful, whimsical illustrations. It provides children with another way to think about how we love and are loved, as well as introducing readers to a child in another culture. Adults might consider reading this as a companion to Mama, Do You Love Me? (Chronicle Books, 1991) and Love You Forever (Firefly Books, 2001). Silly Chicken deserves a place on bookshelves in homes, classrooms and libraries.
Khan is well-known as the author of King of the Skies (Scholastic, 2004) and The Roses in My Carpets (Stoddard Kids, 1998). her website (http://www.rukhsanakhan.com) provides information about her work as an author and storyteller. however, it is also a window into her generosity and concern for others, as it details the author's support of children living in Afghani orphanages. After reading about this work, you my also be inspired to find a way to assist these children.
Thematic Links: Pakistan; Sibling Rivalry; Pets.
Vol. 10, number 5
E - Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!
G - Good, even great at times, generally useful!
A - Average, all right, has its applications.
P - Problematic, puzzling, poorly presented.