Wednesday 1 November 2023

Mr Chicken goes to Mars

Mr Chicken goes to Mars, by Leigh Hobbs (Allen & Unwin) PB HB RRP $24.99 9781760878276

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Leigh Hobbs was Australian Children’s Laurette in 2016-17. He writes across an expansive range of artistic mediums and is best known for his children’s books. Hobbs has won every major children’s choice award. Mr Chicken goes to Paris was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and is a bestseller at Paris’s Louvre Bookshop. Hobbs has received an Australian Legends of Children’s Literature award from Australia Post. 

Mr Chicken is going on his most ambitious journey yet. He has decided to go to Mars. It’s the one place he’s never been, and we all know how ambitious he is.

The story voice is so strong and defined. From the onset the reader knows they are not going to be disappointed. Mr Chicken had been here, there – in fact, nearly everywhere. Way up in the sky, however, there was a place he had never been.

Hobbs’ masterful storytelling is highly engaging and hooks a reader. Mr Chicken is matter of a fact and true to character. Once his mind is made up to do something there is no stopping him. He can be out of his comfort zone but not without his comforts. ‘I’m going to Mars,’ said Mr Chicken. ‘And I want all the comforts of home. Plenty of room to eat and sleep.’ The dialogue delights and moves the plot along nicely. The humour is laugh out loud. Then, by accident, his great big bottom landed right on top of the blast-off button! The space talk works a treat with the space theme and actions. After he deactivated the lower thrust transmitter, Mr Chicken checked that he was on course.

As always there is a little twist and Mr Chicken passes a Martian who is off to Earth. I love the interlude with a stop off at a space station for lunch. On Mars there’s real Martians friends and once it’s time to go home of course Mr Chicken passes a Martian going home, too. There’s a scary moment when Mr Chicken arrives home but as we know Boris is always there to help. And the ending shares that home is best. Which leaves a great message about appreciating your own home. Hobbs’ masterful writing shines.

The illustrations are in true Mr Chicken form and as soon as you see him you smile before you’ve even read a word. The mix of single page spreads and vignettes works a treat.  I love how the book starts with Mr Chicken in his house and ends with him home in bed.

The use of white space really allows the characters to shine. And the pages that feature space have an eye-catching black background with lots and lots and lots of white dots for stars. It creates a strong visual impact. The mayhem of space is shown in all the small details created. The Martians look as kooky as Mr Chicken which made me smile.

The cover is generous and visually draws immediate attention. The endpapers add to the storyline and are little visual stories themselves as Mr Chicken is shown doing all his normal things at home. And the last endpaper is a Martian, of course.

Mr Chicken goes to Mars, is part of a very successful picture book series for children 4-8 years and it sure doesn’t disappoint. Adventurous readers really do join Mr Chicken on another kooky adventure filled with fun. This book is sure to be popular with children 

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