Chicken in the Kitchen is one of the first titles to be released by the newly-formed Lantana Publishing. It was founded for the purpose of championing cultural diversity in children’s books, aiming to move diversity from the margins to the mainstream.
It tells the story, in words and pictures, of Anyaugo, a little Nigerian girl who wakes up one night to find the shadow of a giant chicken moving past her bedroom door. The dilemma is posed at the outset – should she go and investigate? What would the reader do?
So follows the adventure, in which nothing is quite how it seems as Anyaugo moves in the spirit world of her ancestors. It remains unclear, through the different scenes, whether the chicken is a friend or a foe – the level of mischief is humorous without ever becoming threatening, even when Anyaugo has to protect the food that her aunties have cooked for their yam festival the following day. Eventually the Wood Wit helps her to find a solution to the problem and all is well. The festival the next morning remains free of any further mischief.
This is a colourful introduction to the masquerade culture of West Africa and a story which would appeal to any young child with a spirit of adventure. It certainly fulfils its core purpose of increasing awareness of diversity and as such it should be part of every school library.
The images of this picture book are strong and bold, taking readers and pre-readers alike into a colourful, imaginative world: at times, the words become superfluous. I would recommend this book for any KS2 bookshelf.