Chicken Boy by Frances O'Roark Dowell

South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee- 2007-2008


5stars.gif5stars.gif - 2 out of 5 stars rating - Fails to engage reader, characters not well-developed

Mother dies.  Father is absent - physically and emotionally.  Main character must learn to survive on his own....Sound familiar?  This is a plot line that is becoming a bit repetitive in 'tween lit.  Remember The Young Man and the Sea by Philbrick - also, a SCJBA nominee from 2006-07?  The difference between Young Man and the Sea  and this story, however, is the plot in the former engages the reader and the main character, Skiff, is very likable and admirable.  I do not feel the same way about the plot in Chicken Boy or the main character, Toby.

The action in the novel is pretty much nonexistent, and many of the characters are not well-developed.  The main character, Toby, was less interesting to me than his granny, a wacky in-your-face spitfire, and Henry, Toby's classmate, who has developed a fascination of chickens and speaks with a voice much more mature than his young years.  To me, the book leaves so many potential conflicts undeveloped - the relationship between Toby and his young teacher, the tension between Granny and his father, Toby being torn between his new caring foster parents and the dysfunctional family in which he was raised, the relationship between Toby and his juvenile delinquent siblings, the teasing Toby endures with his classmates until he finally begins to prove himself.....

I guess I am missing the appeal of this novel.  I think there's much more interesting realistic fiction that is not on this year's list.  This book may appeal to some reluctant male readers, but overall, I think students will find it boring.