Cover image for Interrupting chicken and the elephant of surprise / David Ezra Stein.
Interrupting chicken and the elephant of surprise / David Ezra Stein.
Publication Information:
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2018.

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 23 x 28 cm
When Little Red Chicken comes home excited about what she learned in school, she explains to Papa that every story has "an elephant of surprise."


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
STE Book Easy Collection

On Order



Surprise! The little red chicken is back -- and as endearingly silly as ever -- in David Ezra Stein's follow-up to the Caldecott Honor-winning Interrupting Chicken.

It's homework time for the little red chicken, who has just learned about something every good story should have: an elephant of surprise. Or could it be an element of surprise (as her amused papa explains)? As they dive in to story after story, looking for the part that makes a reader say "Whoa! I didn't know that was going to happen," Papa is sure he can convince Chicken he's right. After all, there are definitely no elephants in "The Ugly Duckling," "Rapunzel," or "The Little Mermaid" -- or are there? Elephant or element, something unexpected awaits Papa in every story, but a surprise may be in store for the little red chicken as well. Full of the same boisterous charm that made Interrupting Chicken so beloved by readers, this gleeful follow-up is sure to delight fans of stories, surprises, and elephants alike.

Author Notes

David Ezra Stein is the author-illustrator of many picture books, including Interrupting Chicken , which was awarded a Caldecott Honor, I'm My Own Dog, Ice Boy, and Dinosaur Kisses. He lives with his family in Kew Gardens, New York.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the eponymous Chicken's post-Caldecott Honor book, she learns something new in school: "Every story has an elephant of surprise." Papa-whose bright red crest and spade-shaped feet match Chicken's-gently explains that it's element, not elephant. To demonstrate, Papa reads "The Ugly Duckling." The storybook open on Papa's lap, Stein's art transforms from the smudgy, warm tones of the cozy reading nook to a pastoral storybook scene rendered in pen and ink. As the Ugly Duckling is about to glimpse his reflection, a page turn introduces a blue elephant wearing wings: "Surprise! I'm an elephant!" The elephant returns in readings of "Rapunzel" (with thick braids) and "The Little Mermaid" (sporting a bikini). A final story-written by Papa and illustrated by Chicken-demonstrates that, despite Papa's best efforts, the "elephant of surprise" is here to stay. Stein masterfully builds suspense with each imbedded story, for a gag that only gets more fun with each reveal. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Chicken arrives home from school and tells Papa what she learned: Today my teachers told us every story has an elephant of surprise. When Papa attempts to correct her (She was talking about an element of surprise), Chicken charges ahead, looking for elephants in the storybooks she and Papa read together in their comfy armchair (The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid). When those books pages are repeatedly hijacked by bold, lush illustrations reflecting Chickens imaginative, chaotic, and elephant-filled retellings, Papa decides to tell his own storywith no elephants. But Chicken, in charge of the art, finds a way to make her mark (and, unsurprisingly, her crayon drawings include a large number of elephants). Steins mixed-media illustrations allow the narrative styles to bounce back and forth between silly and serious, showing both wacky and cozy moments and honoring the warm, loving relationship between Chicken and her caregiver. Like its Caldecott Honorwinning predecessor Interrupting Chicken, this story centers on one extended gag; but many will enjoy giggling at it again and again, likely with a grownup of their own. elisa gall (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

New York Review of Books Review

FRIENDS, I BRING YOU DELIGHTS! Glittery, silly, rambunctious delights. Five new humorous children's books offer young readers a plethora of pleasure, plus pants for potatoes. Though very different from one another, four of the five feature classic children's book imagery in one form or another. The fifth features, as I said, potato pants. IN KING ALICE (Feiwel and Friends, 32 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), Matthew Cordell, who won the 2017 Caldecott Medal for "Wolf in the Snow," captures the joy (for kids) and frequent exasperation (for parents) of the dreary, slushy indoor snow day. On a blustery day off from school, young Alice is determined to fill her hours with adventure, enlisting her willing, but bedraggled, dad into the fun. After declaring herself king ("You mean queen," suggests her father. "No! King!" says Alice), Her Highness sets out to cram every ounce of fun from their indoor family time, capturing ah of it in a book-within-a-book recounting her adventures. Not even a timeout for the crime of accidental unicorn bopping deters from the fun with Dad. Cordell's art is lively and especially funny when presented from the king's crayons. Children may enjoy the fact that even a Caldecott Medal winner is not above a little gastrointestinal humor (this child certainly did). Alice's mother and baby brother are also along for the ride. Parents will laugh in recognition at the household chaos busy young minds can create during stretches of unexpected indoor time. DAVID EZRA STEIN'S INTERRUPTING CHICKEN AND THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE (Candlewick, 48 pp., $16.99; ages 4 to 8) reunites readers with their inquisitive feathered friend from the Caldecott Honor book "Interrupting Chicken." This time, Chicken returns from school excited to read with her father. Why? Because her teacher, Mrs. Gizzard, has told her that every good story has an "elephant of surprise." Her father thinks that perhaps Chicken means something else, but, as we learned in "King Alice," fathers are easily confused. (It wasn't "Queen" Alice, nor is it the "element of surprise.") Chicken knows precisely what she's looking for - she's on an elephant hunt, and she finds one in every story she reads. Did you know, for example, that Rapunzel features a bubbly blue elephant with exquisite blond braids? Now you do. Stein's art is rich, textured and varied. Like "King Alice," this book features stories within stories. Ah with elephants. Lots and lots of elephants, each of them, as advertised, surprising. THOSE WHO love their artwork textured will adore JUST ADD GLITTER (Beach Lane, 32 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), a collaboration between the author Angela DiTerlizzi and the illustrator Samantha Cotterill. On a rainy day, the mail carrier leaves a box on a little girl's stoop. And just in time. She and her cat are feeling "bored and ignored." What better way to "put some shine upon your crown" than an unexpected package of glitter? Within moments, the girl is spreading sparkles everywhere: on her paper crown, paper dinosaurs and stars, and ah over the bedroom rug. If your walls are "looking for glitz," or just a few more "flashy bits," glitter is just the thing for you. The cat, though, seems hip to a problem with which parents are all too familiar: Glitter gets everywhere. Pretty soon they're chin deep in the stuff. After some judicious (and from experience I would say overly optimistic) sweeping, the glitter is gone, with the little girl and cat discovering that you don't need a special delivery to find a little sparkle. With its fun rhymes and blinged-out pages, "Just Add Glitter" will appeal to those young crafts enthusiasts who have never met a surface that couldn't use a little extra razzle-dazzle. A YOUNG KNIGHT guards against frightful creatures in Jon Agee's the wall in the MIDDLE OF THE BOOK (Dial, 40 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), which uses the clever conceit of the book's "gutter" - that space between each set of two pages - as a boundary between ah that is safe on one side, and ah that is scary on the other. Our knight explains to his readers that the brick wall we see there keeps him safe from a scary menagerie of animals. Tigers and rhinos and gorillas - oh my! Yet, the true menace on the other side of the book is a bearded ogre who would undoubtedly "eat me up" if he ever caught our young hero. Thank goodness for the high wall protecting him. But something seems to be happening on his "safe" side ... something that may require the knight to rethink everything he thought he knew about barriers and who resides on the other side. Agee is the creator of many acclaimed books including "Milo's Hat Trick" and "It's Only Stanley," and this deceptively simple story offers a genuine lesson in the value of all creatures, great and small. Whatever they may look like, oftentimes our biggest fears come from the uncertainty of not being able to see across a boundary. And sometimes, the greatest dangers are right in front of our own two eyes. FINALLY, I PROMISED potato pants, and that is exactly what you're going to get. Laurie Keller's whimsical potato pants: (Holt, 32 pp., $16.99; ages 4 to 8) tells the tale of the one day - the only day - in which Lance Vance's Fancy Pants Store is selling potato pants. A horde of naked potatoes rushes to the store by "spud bus" and "tuber Uber" to grab those tuber trousers because "once they're gone, they're gone! " Unfortunately for our hero, a big, purple eggplant has trespassed into the store, the same eggplant who rudely shoved our hero out of the way the previous day. Now, potato is worried that the eggplant will see him again and he will once again suffer at the hands of that bullying aubergine. Meanwhile, ah the good potato pants are flying off the racks. How will our potato pal get his pants? As in "The Wall in the Middle of the Book," Keller presents a worstcase scenario and gradually dispels the fear. Might he have mistaken the eggplant's intentions? There's plenty of silly illustrations and attractive potato pants to keep chuckling readers turning pages to the end. MICHAEL IAN BLACK'S latest picture book is "I'm Sad," illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.