Mommy Fox kisses her five little foxes goodbye, promising to bring home chicken for supper. After a while, the kits get tired of waiting in the den and go outside to play in the dark. They run into a problem when one kit disappears, and after much wailing and crying are finally helped out by a kindly neighbor – Mother Hen. The kits talk her into taking them safely back to their den, where they find Mommy Fox waiting, and no chicken supper to eat. How will they repay Mother Hen’s kindness — by serving her up for supper?
If A Chicken Stayed For Supper surprises you with that little dilemma at the end. Up until that point, it’s simply a fun story of children who get into trouble and scare themselves when they disobey Mommy’s rules. The whole “missing kit” problem is an exercise in counting, and it’s fun to help a child figure out what they’re doing wrong. My kids certainly love it when they can “be smarter” than a story’s character. Eventually Mother Hen gets them all safely home, and suddenly there’s this new tension of a predator-prey encounter. In fact, I definitely recommend you make sure your child understands that when Mommy Fox promised to “bring home chicken for supper” that she’s going off to hunt — if a child doesn’t understand that part, the final resolution won’t be as understandable.
Can we draw from the eventual dinner party — vegetable soup served to chickens and foxes alike — a message that vegetarianism is good? Perhaps, though I’d say that’s a stretch. A more accurate moral would be the innocence of children bringing fighting adults together, but even that exaggerates what the story actually says. There’s no indication that the meal is anything more than a temporary truce, a momentary accord. I actually appreciated that — it doesn’t go for the “easy answer”.
So, what did the kids think of it? Simple fun. It’s colorful, well paced, has a silly little puzzle to figure out, and a nice warm ending. They don’t need more than that to enjoy a story.
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If A Chicken Stayed For Supper by Carrie Weston, illustrated by Sophie Fatus. Holiday House, 2007.