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The Chicken Dance

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  248 ratings  ·  72 reviews
On his birthday, Don Schmidt spends the day waiting patiently for his big surprise--"a cake, presents, maybe a Chinese clown" . . . . But instead, his batty parents get into their monthly argument. This time it's because his mother has to feed the chickens. It ends with her shouting the same thing as always about their Louisiana chicken farm: "I hate it here!"
What follows...more
Hardcover, 391 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Thorndike Press (first published August 21st 2007)
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This book is terrific. I came to the same conclusion that the main character is very Napoleon Dynamite-esque: a withdrawn senstive kid who is really good at judging agricultural-events (remember the milk judging competition?). There are tons of great details, like the dog and pig who are best friends and roam around town, coming into the schoolyard three days a week so they can let the kids chase them.

There are a lot of mature themes here, adult-type relationships, infidelity, teen pregnancy, al...more
Jan 04, 2008 Edith rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 10 year old boys and kids book freaks like me
This is a wonderful book about an ignored little boy who lives on a chicken farm and has crazy mean parents. So he turns to the chickens for companionship. I am so happy to see they changed the cover of this book to something more exciting. The copy I got from BEA just had boring chickens on it. Sooo, this book would be a 5 star book if the ending hadn't just dropped off. Literally it was like the author realized he was writing a kids' book & that it was getting too long, so he decided to st...more
This book came through check-in a couple days ago, and so I grabbed it, intrigued by the cover flap blurb. It kept me up until three in the morning. Not because it was a fabulous book, but because it was intriguing. Reminded me a lot of The Wednesday Wars, and Okay for Now. The author did an excellent job of coming from an 11 to 12 year old perspective, and not straying from that view. Being more knowledgeable than the protagonist, things fell into place a lot sooner for me than for him, which w...more
Dec 29, 2008 Sandy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandy by: Anna
In his first novel, Jacques Couvillon presents teens with a heartfelt story about love, family and, of course, chickens. Eleven-year-old Don is instantly transformed from "the new kid" who nobody notices or cares about to a local celebrity when he becomes the youngest person ever to win his town's chicken judging contest. Finally, Don has friends who want to spend time with him and a mother who seems interested in what's going on in his life. Everything is turned upside down, however, when Don a...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Lori P. for

How do you go from being an unknown in Horse Island to becoming famous? It's simple -- win a chicken judging contest. The minimum age for entering the contest has been lowered to eleven this year. Don Schmidt sees this as his opportunity to become more well-known and to make a difference in his normal ho-hum life. He rents all kinds of different books from the library and becomes a chicken "expert."

The chicken judging contest is only the beginning of the...more
Don Schmidt has spent much of his young life trying to live up to the standards his parents set while his extremely talented deceased sister Dawn was alive. Don finds his niche in chicken judging- hardly as impressive as Dawn's dancing skills but enough to bring him some notariaty and an escape from a hostile home environment. After winning a major contest Don slowly gains the respect of his uptight mother and peers, only to stumble upon the roots of a massive family secret that seemed to be tea...more
Booktalk: The Chicken Dance is a funny little dance that has the dancers flap their arms up and down like a chicken. The Chicken Dance in this book is the main character's life. In one year, Don goes from having no friends and parents who ignore and forget him to having a chicken farm that makes him and his mother the most popular people in town. But more than becoming popular, in the course of that year Don uncovers family secrets that have been kept from him his whole life.

This book takes you...more
Don Schmidt lives on a chicken farm in Horse Island, Louisiana. He is unpopular at school (he has absolutely no friends and everyone refers to him as "new kid," even though he has lived on Horse Island since kindergarten) and at home (where his mother constantly refers to his dead sister Dawn, and thinks the world revolves around herself). Out of loneliness he befriends the chickens living in his backyard and they become his best friends. Don's luck soon changes when he becomes the youngest pers...more
The Chicken Dance is a book about a ingnored boy named Don who lives on a chicken farm on Hose Island, his love of chickens,his crazy parents, and his dead sister Dawn. One day, Don heard his parents yelling at each other because his mom has to watch the chickens. Since Don loved chickens, he told his mom that he would watch the chickens. He learned so much about chickens that when he entered a chicken-judging competition, he won! This competition leads to a giant chain of events, which leads h...more
Don doesn't fit in and never has since his family moved to remote Horse Island. Until Don entered the local chicken judging contest and won. Now he is the most popular guy around - and he isn't sure why.

I liked the story and loved Don, but his parents and home life was horrible. A hen-pecked, remote father and a self-absorbed mother make Don's favorite friends his chickens. There is no adult guiding wisdom in his life. He depends on his inner voice guiding him and that is a dangerous prospect f...more
Jan 05, 2010 babyhippoface rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one, really
Shelves: kids-fiction
I think I'm in the minority here, but this book bothered me. It was just so sad. I kept waiting for good things to happen to this boy, but even when they did, the depressing in his life took over and just overshadowed everything.

Don had a highly-developed fantasy life because his social skills were stunted by neglect and indifference. Even though he remained hopeful and caring, as evidenced by the selfless choice he made in the end, I couldn't help but think about how he would probably pay dear...more
Eleven-year-old Don Schmidt leads a lonely and solitary life. Trained early for complete submission by his aloof parents, Don never speaks unless spoken to. That includes everyone, even other children. Any attention he receives is limited to screeching criticism from his mother and harsh teasing from the kids at school, especially popular Leon. His father goes to work and then comes home to stare at the TV, basically ignoring him. There is one exception to Don’s lonely world --- the chickens.
Steve Griffin
I loved this book, it’s a fantastic take on the huge capacity for patience and acceptance that children have, and the things they’ll do to ensure that no matter what they’ll find a way to have fun and give their lives meaning. Don is a winning example of one of those kids who end up parenting their parents. His final act of kindness breaks your heart. My only criticism is that the book feels a drawn out towards the end – but that’s not enough to knock it off the top spot.

Surely the best book you...more
This was a strange children's novel about a boy finding out that he everything about his life that he thought was true is actually a lie. The characters aren't developed well either.
I went from loving this book to thinking it was ok. There were parts that were just so depressing and then the next chapter would make me laugh. It all averaged out to a solid three stars.
I never knew chickens could be so interesting...or at least Don, the eleven year old protagonist of the story makes them interesting. Don's mother is a self-absorbed former Vegas showgirl who hates living on a chicken farm in a po-dunk town on Horse Island. Don's father is mostly absent. Neither pays Don any attention until he becomes the youngest person to win the local chicken judging contest. Suddenly, he is a minor celebrity. Don is such a charming, funny, sincere boy that you just find your...more
The only thing I didn't like about this book was the ending. Really, readers deserved better because the story and characters were so engaging.
Don lives on Horse Island with his distant parents (they don't even remember his birthday). His joy in life comes when he is finally allowed to take over care of the flock of chickens his mother despises and fears. Once Don finds this calling, things in his life begin to change and so do the people around him as secrets from the past begin to appear an...more
AUDIO: This was my second audiobook, and it was a bit of a disappointment after "Beauty Queens." The story was a lot more depressing than I thought it was going to be, since the book jacket promised a touching, funny character. I think the listening to this book, may have been to its detriment with me. I felt like Don's voice was incredibly young, slow and immature (far too many "likes" and "I didn't know's" not delivered in a witty way). By the end, I was appalled that anyone could stand to be...more
It took me a little while to decide if I liked this book. At first it was almost painful to read because of how terribly Don is treated by his parents and by the other children in his school, but the more I read, the more interested I became in the character. He's a strange little boy who sings KC and the Sunshine Band songs to himself, talks to his imaginary twin brother or to his chickens (who aren't imaginary) when he's feeling down. He's smart, funny, compassionate naive and sometimes startl...more
Couvillon does a wonderful job of telling a story of a 12 year old, Stanley (aka Don) living on a chicken farm with his dysfunctional parents. I wouldn't have thought a book about a chicken farm in a small American could be so gripping but my heart went out to Don as he struggles to fit in, tries to do things so his parents accept and love him and talks to his chickens for company.

One thing that annoyed me big time about this book is that all the story Stanley was peddling his bike but he still...more
I read this book in 4th grade, and it really surprised me with its ending and plot twist (again, wow). Reading this in 8th grade really amazed me with its ending again, even though I knew how it would end. But the fact that his "sister" was actually (view spoiler), I was ready to die at that point, because everything made sense. Although I liked how that went, I questioned the author and the book, why didn't Don (view spoiler)...more
Recommended for gr. 5-9. Enjoyable story about an 11-year-old boy who lives on a chicken farm which his parents inherited from an uncle. The reader suspects that there is hidden secret within his family. His mother is self-centered, and the father distant, in fact, they forget his birthday. Don finds that he has a talent for judging chickens, and competing in the big city gives him an opportunity to discover things within himself, about his family, and the meaning of friendship.
I really enjoyed this odd, funny, and often sad story but the ending was too abrupt and open-ended for my taste. This story had great characters and while the plot revolved around Don's love for chickens there were very interesting side stories that dealt with lots of issues including the loss of a family member and fitting in with peers.

I just wish it had a real conclusion and would have been happy to read another 100 pages about young Don and his chickens!
Riley Jane
It was between Ok and liked it. I thought it was a bit confusing, but it was a good book. The bad thing was that it left you hanging, and it was kind of a boyish book.
It was about a boy who lived with his parents and was the lame kid at school that played with chickens. He suddenly becomes popular because he won a chicken judging contest. He goes on a search for his long lost sister, a secret is revealed then the end.
I wouldn't reccomend it to anyone, really.
Ms. Dana
I really enjoyed this odd, funny, and often sad story but the ending was too abrupt and open-ended for my taste. This story had great characters and while the plot revolved around Don's love for chickens there were very interesting side stories that dealt with lots of issues including the loss of a family member and fitting in with peers.

I just wish it had a real conclusion and would have been happy to read another 100 pages about young Don and his chickens!
What a funny, enjoyable book! I don't know how I have missed it - it was written several years ago, but was highly recommended to me by my wise friend Dawn.

It does have some pretty mature themes (parents' affairs, teen pregnancy, etc.) and kind of reads like a soap opera at times, but I think a lot of that will go right over kids' heads. Anyone who raises chickens (or even knows someone who raises chickens!) will especially enjoy this.
Don is a lonely boy who is an outcast at school. That is until he wins the chicken contest. Now he and is a local celebrity. Although the book is filled with some good chicken facts a large portion of the book deals with Don's family life. His parents are always fighting and his mom seems obbessed with his dead sister. These bits of life untangle as Don finds out his sister is alive and not his sister at all.
Lillian Angelovic
Story of a sweet kid whose family is a real mess, and who just wants to love and be loved. The addition of chickens only makes it sweeter. I loved the main character and his matter-of-fact approach to life. He deserved a better family than he got, but he proved that a good soul shines through, even in the weirdest situations. Also, chickens really do make good listeners, in case you wondered.
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