Ada, Alma Flor. Half-Chicken, Medio Pollito.
New York: Dragonfly Books. ISBN: 0-440-41360-5.
Set in colonial Mexico, Half-Chicken is a
humorous traditional folktale about the adventures of a one-legged, one-eyed, one-winged chicken that leads to the explanation
as to where the chicken atop a weather vane truly originated from.
Once Half-Chicken makes it to Mexico City to strut (as best he can) to the viceroy,
he finds that he is not well received but rather thrown into a kettle of boiling water. Fortunate for him he is rescued
by some unlikely friends -- the elements of nature -- fire, water, and wind as he is blown to the top of a tower.
Analysis & Literary Considerations:
The story, told simultaneously in bilingual format (Spanish and English), is
Ada's contribution to honoring a time period in Mexican history some young people might never have otherwise be exposed to.
The repeated phrase "hip hop hip hop" as Half-Chicken travels along his way coupled
with the folktale tradition of threes, the author provides a wonderful real aloud children of all ages can enjoy.
Illustrator, illustrado, Kim Howard choses a mixed-media in red
and gold hues with a batik-look. Her brightly colored happy-go-lucky illustrations add a flavorful Hispanic tradition
of patterns that quite nicely compliment (if not immensely move) this piece.
This selection was one of my favorite "reads" this summer. It is certainly
my favorite Alma Flor Ada book thus far. The author's unique ability to take a traditional folktale and add such cultural
flavor to the stoy will capture the reader as he or she joins Half-Chicken on his adventure.
The connection this story brings to a weather unit is wonderful. Using
Half-Chicken as an introduction would be fun as questions are elicited about the origination, purpose, and use of
the weather vane and whether or not they are truly used today.
Enjoyed by an upper elementary reader, I posed the question as to why she liked
this story. "It's just cute!", she said with a big smile on her face. "I never would have thought
that's how we got those things." (Speaking about the metal chicken -- weather vane on the top of barns and other