A laugh-out-loud follow-up to Stein’s 2011 Caldecott honoree, Interrupting Chicken.
Little Chicken is back, and her metafictive editorial impulses are as strong as ever. After school, she tells Papa, “my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise.” Papa corrects her, replying, “She was talking about an element of surprise,” but Chicken is unconvinced and is determined to find surprising elephants in the stories she reads for homework with Papa. And find them she does in the books-within-the-book: The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid. As in Interrupting Chicken, Stein changes styles to illustrate Chicken’s books and then visually interrupts those scenes—this time not just with Chicken jumping into the books, but with her imagined elephant of surprise, too. He ratchets up the humor by depicting the small, blue, adorable elephant in costume for each story—feathered like a swan, wearing long braids and a dirndl, and finally in a grass skirt and coconut bra. More indulgent than exasperated, Papa determines to tell Chicken a story without elephants, and she illustrates it. She, of course, also interrupts it with an elephant of surprise. While the interrupting conceit is a bit less straightforward in this book than its predecessor, fans of the two loving characters will be delighted to see them again.
Unsurprisingly good. (Picture book. 4-8)