Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Chella Chicken is a cute and inspiring animal-centered children's book by Travis Shiwji!
This book features some minimalistic yet appealing art by illustrator Deborah Bello as well as a very compelling and easy-to-follow story about a little chicken's lifelong dream of flying. This book has it where it counts: heart and soul. It is genuinely compelling with a main character you can't help but get behind.
Chella Chicken has a dogged determination and never-give-up attitude akin to someone like Rocky Balboa or John Cena. And, like Rocky, you can't help but root and cheer for her. What's extra interesting about Chella's character journey is that she doesn't just work hard to fulfill her dream, she actually works smart as well. She actually signs up for a special school (“University”) where she learns to become a mechanical engineer. She uses what she learned in engineering school to solve her problem and finally achieve her dream!
This is such a great message for children, who often feel so small in a world so big. Children develop hopes and dreams throughout their lives, and many of these dreams follow them into adulthood. Sadly, many of these dreams fall by the wayside and we realize they might not be realistic or achievable. Other dreams do come true, especially when we commit time and energy into achieving them. This is a bizarrely realistic story, especially considering that it employs anthropomorphic animals to tell it.
This book is also very entertaining in general. For one, it's quite funny. You can't help but chuckle a little at the feeble, determined chick's attempts to fly. You can't help but chuckle when some chicken drumsticks and steak appear on a page, the implications being that the animals are in danger of being eaten. Then you realize... dang, that's kinda dark.
Actually, there's another very interesting and somewhat eye-raising character in here. Actually, he's two characters: Bob and Dale. Bob and Dale are actually Siamese (conjoined) twin cows, something we've never seen in a book before. Their conjoined nature is actually treated very matter-of-factly and never highlighted or emphasized, which is interesting. Bob and Dale aren't necessarily shown in a positive light, but not because of their physical deformity, but rather because they are mean to Chella while she's growing up. They often mock and laugh at her, telling her she'll “never fly.” Bob and Dale seem to represent the negative people in our lives, the crabs in a bucket who won't let any other crabs escape.
At the same time, it is implied (but not explicitly stated) that Bob and Dale had a pretty grim fate, apparently being slaughtered and turned into ground beef. It's kinda sad and disturbing when you think about it as an adult, but it does help to serve the message that a high tide raises all ships, and that it is better to help and encourage others rather than to put them down and hold them back. You never know when you might need them.
In our head-cannon, we like to think that Bob and Dale had a change of heart, realized they were wrong, and received help from Chella in escaping the farm. After all, if Francis the Fox in Tuula Pere's book could be redeemed (after essentially becoming a dictator), Bob and Dale can too.
All in all, this is a really fun and inspiring children's book!
Check it out on BookBaby!