Monday, March 14, 2016

More Motherhood Propaganda: THE HEN WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY. Buy it for the illos.

translated by Kim Chi-Young, illustrated by Nomoco
Penguin Books
$15.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command, only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plan to escape into the wild—and to hatch an egg of her own.

An anthem for freedom, individuality and motherhood featuring a plucky, spirited heroine who rebels against the tradition-bound world of the barnyard, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a novel of universal resonance that also opens a window on Korea, where it has captivated millions of readers. And with its array of animal characters—the hen, the duck, the rooster, the dog, the weasel—it calls to mind such classics in English as Animal Farm and Charlotte’s Web.

Featuring specially-commissioned illustrations, this first English-language edition of Sun-mi Hwang’s fable for our times beautifully captures the journey of an unforgettable character in world literature.

My Review: Jonathan Livingston Seagull meets Babe. To compare the book to Charlotte's Web is damned near heresy. In every generation, there's another fable of Independence Declared by ____ and the Struggles of _____ to xxxx. This is the 21st century's international publishing phenomenon in the genre, which the provincial, smugly self-satisfied Murrikin Megapublishers got 15 years after most places did.

If you're 14 and a sad, lonely, misunderstood girl, this is ideal to stuff into your locker. Also a grandmother's ideal gift for same. Older folks who've just become grandparents, adoptees and their mommies, those who are sentimental as all get-out, queue up for your copy.

The illustrations are so very spare and lovely and evocative that I gave the silly text 3 stars. But my serious objection to the book is that the hen's one true dream, the longing of her soul, the reason she's ready to fight a weasel fagodsake is:
She want to become a real hen and hatch an egg.
So, in other words, Motherhood Makes the Hen.

This is not a message I think needs further spreading. It has metastasized in our various cultures to the point that rich first-world folks go buy themselves a baby girl at the Chinese Baby Bazaar, or spend absurd amounts of money doing medical hoo-hah and get themselves their very own genetic descendants.

With seven billion people on the planet, this obsession, this personal value marker, needs to be re-thought and revised.


  1. I like Potter's take in Jemima Puddleduck: she wants to hatch her eggs, but she ends up laying them in a room offered by a foxy-looking gentlemen. When Shep brings the farm puppies to her rescue, the dogs eat all the eggs. Screw motherhood.

    The pictures do look lovely, though.

    1. Thanks for the validation from the other side of the aisle, Kaethe. It's just such a crappy idea to keep hammering this into girls' heads.

    2. I've really enjoyed being a parent, but it certainly isn't a job anyone should enter without enthusiastic consent.

  2. Oh, a a national policy that ensures children have enough to eat.


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