The Hoboken Chicken Emergency

Many so-called “children’s” books are great ways to practice mindful reading. Why did the author say this, instead of that? What’s intriguing about this plot? What’s charming about this character–why do I feel not only that I have gotten to know this person (e.g. their likes and dislikes, or that they are an extrovert), but also that, if we knew each other in real life, we would be friends?

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is the story with two main characters. The first is a boy named Arthur Bobowicz, who is that age where a boy may get up early and play on a playground so his friends won’t see, because he is too old to play on playgrounds. Arthur is just such a boy, and at one point in this book he heads to just such a playground for just such a purpose. If you are like me, you like him already. The second is Henrietta, who is (spoiler alert) a 266-pound chicken.

The story opens with Thanksgiving approaching, and Arthur’s father (who like many of the immigrant fathers in Hoboken, was very big on being American, and particularly big on his kids, because they are American, having a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

Due to a mix-up at the meat counter, Arthur’s family does not receive their turkey as ordered, and Arthur’s impressively diligent Thanksgiving-day search turns up no turkeys not already spoken for in all of Hoboken. No poultry, in fact, until Arthur happens into discovering a mad scientist with a menagerie, who sells him a live chicken named Henrietta. It reads cleverly, as though Arthur’s child-like willingness to defer to adult authority is somewhat exploited by the mad scientist, who is apparently eager to unload some oversize chickens. At this point, some salient lessons a very sharp child might get are: 1. No harm in being proud to be an American, even if it is a little unimaginative. 2. Diligence pays off. 3. Those who have authority, such as the authority of full adulthood, will often abuse that authority to get their way, such as by pawning off an oversize chicken on an insufficiently assertive young boy.

Anyway, not to give away the whole plot, but there’s some great lessons about how to tell the difference between a charlatan salesman versus a capable professional, the idiocy of people in a panic, the foibles of politicians faced with seemingly intractable problems, and running through it all is the theme that if people took more time to really understand each other (and 266-pound chickens) they’d all find it quite easy to get along.

A fun read. Good for an early reader who is ready to move away from picture books, and for adults of any age.

Minor edits 24 Jan 2017.

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