"The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly" by Sun-Mi Hwang is a book that has remained on the bestseller list for ten years in South Korea, where it was first published. And it's no wonder.
This short novel is not a simple story. Yet its theme and the emotions that resound in the prose are universal. Love, the desire to be part of a family, acceptance and sacrifice are all strong themes here.
A hen at a farm stops laying eggs. She is an endearing character, and because the story is told from her point of view, readers will feel as if they know her. Her name is Sprout, and what she wants most in the world is to get to keep one of her eggs and raise it.
Unfortunately, she is a laying hen confined to her small coop. She cannot wander or flap her wings. All she can do is lay eggs and watch as they roll to the front of the tilted enclosure. She cannot even touch the eggs she lays.
Finally, when she is too weak to lay eggs, she is taken to the trash heap and left to die. She somehow has enough strength and determination to escape death, and a mallard duck befriends her.
Sprout eventually finds an egg and sits on it until it hatches. Readers will understand quicker than Sprout does what the egg is. Sprout is happy to be a mother, even though her "chick" looks nothing like her. And she understands that being a mother means wanting the best for your little one -- no matter who or what that little one is.
The story will provoke discussion about what acceptance means. And it also illustrates that while love can overcome differences, we cannot change who we were born to be.
What the hen learns is that motherly love is everything. It means happiness, but it also means sacrifice when the babies eventually leave the nest. And Sprout's ultimate sacrifice is not for her own baby; but it is in the name of motherly love.
"The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly" has been likened to an adult "Charlotte's Web," but it's more. It is a book that can be appreciated by readers of a wide range of ages -- from ten-year-olds through adults. And it will touch the hearts and minds of all who read it.
It would be a fabulous book club selection, or a classroom selection. It would also be a great read aloud to discuss in the classroom.
Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher, Penguin Original Fiction, for review purposes.
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