Friday 16 September 2016

Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma

Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma written and illustrated by Leigh Hobbs (Allen and Unwin)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781925266771

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

The iconic Leigh Hobbs character is back and, this time, he’s on a Vespa!

Having dreamt of ancient Rome since he was a baby, Mr Chicken sets off to explore the country, hiring a guide named Federica to show him around. The story wastes no time paying homage to all the Roman sites you’d expect – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Mouth of Truth … and Rome’s chaotic traffic. Mr Chicken, er … Signor Pollo, even goes to the Vatican but doesn’t find the Pope anywhere near as interesting as gelato. (Children – and adults – will delight in discovering via the pictures just how gelato-obsessed this chicken becomes!)

The story is full of all the humorous antics we’ve come to expect from Mr Chicken, who turns into a pasta twirling extraordinaire and takes a dip in the Trevi Fountain. He also falls asleep in front of a popular biting tourist attraction and thereby becomes the tourist attraction. There is even a salute to Roman history, and to Signor Pollo’s childhood dreams, with a very funny dream about a familiar-looking Julius Caesar and some Roman gladiators.

Australian Children’s Laureate, Leigh Hobbs, has once again created a very funny story about the chicken with a penchant for travel. The writing works wonderfully – there is humour in the way it contrasts the illustrations, but also in the text alone. For example, we read that ‘Federica’s family was having him for dinner’ … gulp! (Fortunately not as a meal, for those of us who are hopeful for another title in this series!)

Readers are treated to the colourful, entertaining endpapers we love about this series. There’s a list of useful Italian words, a Frequent Flyer card and an amusing compilation of selfies from his trip. Amidst the whimsical illustrations of Mr Chicken on his travels are the most exquisite drawings of Rome I’ve ever seen. The detail in these sketches is divine.

Is there anything this man cannot draw?!

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