Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, by Sun-Mi Hwang (Giveaway!)

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a novel which was written by Sun-Mi Hwang of South Korea. This novel has garnered critical and international acclaim. It has been called a "fable-like tale" and I can certainly see how that would be.

The thing that totally cracks me up about this book is the marketing campaign for it and the American reaction. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly was written as a children's story but is said to "transcend" the "just-for-kids label". In other words, the adult reader need not feel shamed by picking up this children's tale and/or enjoying it because it is deep and meaningful and will cause you to feel enlightened. Reading for enlightenment is always a good idea. Especially when the opportunity is staring at you in the face to be enlightened, as was the case for me. I accepted this book for review but not because it was "ok for adults too." I accepted it because the author is from South Korea, as are two of my boys. I was curious. (But it's good to know that I don't need to feel shame in reading what so many people have understood to originally be a children's book. Whew.)

In The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly we meet a hen who has named herself Sprout. She is an old and sickly hen who is having troubles laying eggs. She overhears the farmer and his wife discussing the fact that she has fulfilled her purposes and eventually is shocked to discover herself being disposed of. Sprout manages to do what the other hens - those who have also outlived their purpose for humans - do not manage to do. She escapes from the group of dead and dying chickens and begins making her own way around the farm yard and surrounding world. Her constant greatest wish is to be able to lay and egg and hatch it.

Sprout's wish to become a mother eventually comes true, but it is not her own egg which she takes possession of. She assumes the role of brooding mother over a duck egg. When the duck hatches, Sprout nurtures the duck causing the other barnyard animals to look at her askance (they were not as aware and enlightened). Sprout and her baby duck don't look alike, they do not belong in a neat category, and their relationship is deemed 'not natural.' Sprout has to face the world alone and the duck has to learn that love isn't formed only between the same species. (You can draw a lot of political arguments out of this situation, sure. I choose to draw out that families can be beautifully built through the miracle and blessing of adoption. We don't look the same but that doesn't mean we can't love and support one another - and be family to one another. I AM enlightened already.)

Critics will tell you that this story is about self-realization, death, and the achievement of happiness. I will tell you that it is an interesting story about a hen that is neither totally captivating or entirely easy to forget. I do think this book has fable-like qualities to you which cause you to remember it and draw any number of personal applications from it. I believe each reader could potentially experience something different when reading this book. When I looked up the reviews on Good Reads I noted that the opinion was that, as the cast of characters here are all animals, this book will make you think about Animal Farm or Charlotte's Web. I didn't find that to be the case for me. I didn't think about either of those books when reading The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. This story is less detailed and charming than Charlotte's Web. There is no strong political argument being made in this book which would bring to mind Animal Farm. This book by Hwang just seems a simple story which you will either enjoy or not. I guess what I'm saying is, I think that entirely too much has been made out of this book. It has been overdramatized which risks the enjoyment for future readers who might expect this book to revolutionize their world only to discover themselves a bit used by marketing firms.

Publishers Weekly says that this book will be loved by readers of self-help. Frankly I think they'd be reading way too much into things if they were reading this book for help! It is a charming story. It is compelling. But it's not a rock-your-world kind of read. I have the distinct impression that adults reading this book are struggling to justify their reading - (and ENJOYING!) - of this, ad children's book. I don't believe there should be a need to work so hard to defend one's liking of what is designed to be a simple story. I agree with C.S. Lewis who made the following statement:

“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." ~ C.S. Lewis

It really is ok to be an adult and read children's stories for fun and amusement. And when you do so, you might find that children's stories hold a unique value all their own in that they appeal to simple understanding and imagination. Simplicity can be beautiful and has the potential and power to communicate great truth. We adults try too hard to make things become and stay complicated. Somehow we've made ourselves to believe that when we've made something complicated we will then feel freedom to enjoy whatever it is (...if we can). Forced complexity is just a pretense and it usually exists for the purpose of to hiding some insecurity.

In my opinion we should always be free to read a good children's story. And then we should be free to admit it.

Did I enjoy my reading of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly? Why, yes I did. And I'm not ashamed to say so.

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ― C.S. Lewis

Would you also be interested in also reading a copy? Penguin Group has generously offered to give away one copy of this title to one of you. Care to win? Simply leave a comment below including a valid e-mail address. This contest is open to U.S. Residents only and will be open through Monday, December 16th.

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER, as selected by, IS #4 - Annette! Congrats!

Many thanks to Penguin Group who sent a copy of this title my direction in order to facilitate this review. I have received no additional compensation for this post and all opinions are my own.


bekahcubed said...

How odd that someone would have to justify reading a children's tale. I thought it was only teenagers who felt such stuff to be beneath them.

Thankfully, I am already enlightened :-)

petite said...

this book would be delightful and unique. thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

Katie said...

looks like a lovely book!

Annette Whipple said...

Delightful, fun, and unique! :)
thissimplemom@ gmail dot com

Kendal said...

Would love to win another book to add to my children's bookshelf.

Kendal said...

Would love to win another book to add to my children's bookshelf.

Alison said...

Pick me! hehe

Anita Yancey said...

It sounds like a very touching story. I would love to share it with my daughter. Thanks for having the giveaway.


Annette Whipple said...

It arrived today! Thank you!

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