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When the Chickens Went on Strike Hardcover – July 14, 2003

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 9 years
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile; 1st edition (July 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525468625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525468622
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 9.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 6-A story about the custom of Kapores, told by a man looking back on his childhood in a 19th-century Russian village. As described here, the ritual involves holding a chicken over someone's head while reciting a prayer in order to rid the person of the year's misdeeds. Triggering a commotion in the prayer house, the boy is sent outside and observes the chicken population leaving town. They're fed up with being vehicles for a New Year's clean slate. The boy pleads with the revolutionaries, saying he needs them to make Kapores so that his father will be proud of him. A hen asks, "Boychick- for this, do you really need a chicken?" In this skillful adaptation of a story by Sholom Aleichem, Silverman's addition of a young narrator lends immediacy and empathy, and streamlines the story with no loss of flavor and point. Though the tale is accessible and enjoyable, a discussion of Kapores beyond what is offered here will increase children's understanding and appreciation of the story. The comic alliteration and in-your-beak attitude of the cheeky chickens, reinforced by the handsomely humorous paintings, are appealing. Executed in layers of ink, pencil, gouache, acrylic, and oil, the illustrations are a wonderful combination of modern and folk art. The fiercely funny fowl, with long necks, whitish bodies, and rich red coxcombs, squawk right off the page. Good New Year's-let alone Rosh Hashanah-stories are in short supply. This is one to crow about.
Nancy Palmer, The Little School, Bellevue, WA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

K-Gr. 3. In this Jewish New Year story, based on a Sholom Aleichem tale, a young boy sneaks away from religious services to spy on a meeting of local chickens. The birds are upset about the tradition of Kapores, a custom involving twirling chickens overhead to symbolically rid a person of bad deeds. Declaring freedom for fowl, the birds go on strike, and not even negotiators can convince them to return. Without the ceremony, the boy despairs that he will ever be good enough to please his father; then, one of the hens gently explains to him that humans can control their own behavior. Trueman's stylistically inventive mixed-media illustrations, rich in earth tones, are visually striking. They juxtapose well with Silverman's understated yet humorous text; both include many nineteenth-century Russian setting details. A perfect choice for holiday read-alouds, this will make a welcome addition to religious collections, especially in libraries where there is a Jewish audience. Kay Weisman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Being a new grandfather, I am getting back into books for children. The story is important, of course, and this is a cute story about a fascinating and rather esoteric bit of Jewish tradition...good as well as instructive for the children. But what makes this book are the illustrations! They grab you in the bookstore and make you want to buy the book. They wonderfully illustrate the simple little story, giving it depth and character that will fascinate the children long after the words are finished. Trueman's wonderful colors and technique give the characters life, despite a certain stylistic stiltedness that he obviously chose to accomplish his purposes with the book. Buy the book for the story, yes. But certainly buy it for the pictures!! Your kids or grandkids will have a ball...and so will you!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Not only did I learn a rather obscure & bizarre jewish tradition, I fell in love with the wonderful illustrations!
Though I am a christian, I will enjoy sharing this book of jewish life and practice with my grandkids. A wonderful & culturally rich tale with delightfully engaging illustrations!
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Format: Hardcover
Award-winning children’s author Erica Silverman portrays the Rosh Hashanah custom of kapores or kaporot in a whimsical way to illustrate how people need to be conscious of their actions. While I have never witnessed the controversial custom of kaporot, I have seen it performed in videos and in books. Only a small number of 21st century Jews adhere to this ancient folk ritual. Many rabbis throughout history banned the use of animals as means for atonement.

Just prior to Yom Kippur, orthodox Jews hold a chicken above their head while swinging it around three times. The prayers ask God to transfer any harsh decrees to the chicken. Similar to tashlikh, the person performing the ritual is symbolizing the importance of repentance.

Silverman adapted Sholom Aleichem’s notable story Kapores. Sholom Aleichem (1859-1916) was the author of the Yiddish stories that eventually became the storyline for the play, The Fiddler on the Roof.

This picture book looks at this archaic ritual from the point of view of the chickens. The chickens are fed up with being swung around and decide to strike. The main character, a young Jewish boy, overhears the chickens’ conversation. Wanting to be able to repent for his mistakes, he tries to bring together the Jewish congregation and the chickens. The people’s words and actions alienate the chickens.

A tender moment occurs when the boy makes an appeal to the chickens. He says, “I have more bad deeds that a dog has fleas… Without kapores, I will never be able to make my papa proud.”

The underlying message of the story is seen in the response of one of the chickens.

“For this do you really need a chicken?” The boy came to the logical conclusion that he could control his actions and act accordingly.
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