Updated: Apr 24, 2020
My sons watched an episode of Pink Panther as I drove. I couldn’t see the screen, of course, but I loved listening to my boys. Here’s what went down:
7-year-old: “It’s a rabbit!”
5-year-old: “I know it!”
7-year-old: “It’s gonna be a rabbit!”
Both boys: “Ahhhhhhhhhh! IT’S A CHICKEN!!!!”
Laughs and laughs and more laughs.
5-year-old: “Do that part again!”
How fun! What genius to build that suspense, to let kids think they know what’s coming, to make them predict it, beg for it even then – wham-o! – hit them with a surprise they didn’t see coming. But, the big reveal is something so satisfying that it heightens the experience, making them ask to do it all again.
Isn’t that one way to think about a possible picture book structure? Can a picture book make kids react and participate? Can a picture book with no apps, no buttons, no show off-y hoopla have the magical power to entertain? Can the page turns bump up that anticipation in a way that not even a classic Pink Panther episode can?
Erica S. Perl’s Chicken Butt! is a huge favorite in our house. My boys love the humor, the inappropriateness of the word ‘butt’, and the relationship between the kid and his dad. But the last pages really flip their switches.
It’s the perfect example of how that Pink Panther rabbit/chicken-type surprise can create a giant pay-off in a picture book. My boys laugh and laugh and laugh some more. And the experience always ends with three fantastic words: “Read it again!”
If you haven’t read Chicken Butt!, I beg you to grab a copy right this minute. Just be prepared to lose it, especially when you are gifted with those final page turns. Happy reading (and laughing)!