The Chicken Dance

The Chicken Dance

Book - 2007
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When eleven-year-old Don Schmidt wins a chicken-judging contest in his small town of Horse Island, Louisiana and goes from outcast to instant celebrity, even his neglectful mother occasionally takes notice of him and eventually he discovers some shocking family secrets.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2007.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9781599900438
1599900432
Branch Call Number: J
Characteristics: 326 p. ; 21 cm.

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Pygoscelis
Feb 27, 2011

This was not a bad book. On the contrary, Don/Stanley is a very developed character, and you really feel involved and care about what's going to happen to the kid, who clearly has potential but is held back by his family situation.

I was just rather put-off because I read it expecting a new-kid-has-a-quirky-adventure-type-book (like Hoot), but it was really about Don/Stanley dealing with his troubled family and social relationships. The whole chicken-judging thing becomes a subplot, and the book takes a darker turn as Don/Stanley tries to discover the truth about his sister Dawn, who has run away to New Orleans to become a "dancer."

A few reviews have compared the book to Catcher in the Rye, and that's a better comparison than the Napoleon Dynamite reference on the cover, though Don is a much more likeable character than Holden. Neither of them are objective narrators, and shrewd readers will be able to see things that the naive, optimistic Don cannot.

A good book for discussing, not a book to read for laughs or for people who don't like ambiguous endings.

Age: Suitable for mature 12-year-olds and up. There are a lot of mature themes in the book, and there are references to menstrual cycles, sex (nothing graphic, and what is mentioned is described from the POV of Don, who is naive), and there is some violence.

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