Book of the Month

book cover Mediopollito Half-Chicken, by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Kim Howard

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Mediopollito Half-Chicken, a bilingual retelling of a Spanish folktale about an adventurous chick.

Summary | Reviews | In the Classroom | Related Books of Interest | Bulletin Board

Cover art reprinted with permission from Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

Mediopollito Half-Chicken
By Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Kim Howard
A Doubleday Book for Young Readers, ages 5-9

This bilingual retelling of a Spanish folktale, set in colonial Mexico, explains the origins of weather vanes. A very unusual chicken with only one leg, one eye and one wing sets out to explore the world. His adventures take him far and wide, until at last he's carried straight to the top of a tower in this captivating tale of a vain little chick with a good heart.

Cover art reprinted with permission from Doubleday Books for Young Readers.


Horn Book | Library Talk | School Library Journal

From The Horn Book, November/December Issue
Noted translator and writer Ada has set her bilingual retelling of this traditional tale from Spain in colonial Mexico. As the humorous, rather off-beat story opens, a mother hen hatches a chick with "only on wing, only one leg, only one eye, and only half as many feathers as the other chicks." Half-Chicken, as he comes to be known, gets a swelled (half) head from all the attention he attracts and decides to travel to Mexico City to show his uniqueness to the viceroy. Off he hops, stopping on his urgent quest only to unblock a stream impeded by branches, fan a small fire that is about to go out, and untangle a wind caught in some bushes. Half-Chicken finally reaches the viceroy's palace, but instead of the hero's welcome he expects, the little rooster is greeting with jeers and ignominiously thrown into a kettle on the kitchen fire. The good deeds Half-Chicken performed on his journey, however, literally get him out of hot water: The grateful fire tells the water to jump on him and put him out, and the water complies. Then, tossed out the window by the frustrated cook, Half-Chicken is again rescued, this time by the wind, who blows him to the top of a tower. There, transformed into a weather vane, he is forever safe from cooking pots. Ada's liberal use of repetition, especially describing Half-Chicken's gait-"hip hop hip hop"-and the convention of the three helpers keep this rather unusual story grounded, while Howard's vibrant, jaunty illustrations, rich in warm reds and golds and lively with pattern and texture, move the tale forward with great energy. Her humorous depiction of poor scrawny Half-Chicken is particularly successful.

Copyright (c) 1996 The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.

From Library Talk, May/June 1996
Alma Flor Ada's Mediopollito/Half-Chicken spins a Latin-American version of a Spanish tale explaining why weather vanes stand on one leg. English is one side of the double pages, Spanish on the other. A chick is born with only one wing and leg: a half chicken. He decides he is important enough to go to the viceroy's court in Mexico City. On the way, he helps some water, fire, and wind. When he ends up in a cooking pot in the viceroy's palace, the elements help him escape to a rooftop, where he remains. Repeated themes will read well aloud. Kim Howard's mixed-media double-page scenes present stylized details, often having the look of batik on cloth.

Copyright (c) 1996, Library Talk. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal, November 1994
The hatching of a chick with only one wing, one leg, one eye, and half the usual number of feathers raises quite a stir on a colonial Mexican ranch. All of the attention encourages the vain Mediopollito, Half-Chicken (as he is called), to seek his fortune. He encounters, in turn, fire, water, and wind and assists each of them during the course of his trip, "to Mexico City to see the court of the viceroy!" In return, the elements come to the fowl's aid and Half-Chicken finds his rightful place in the scheme of things. The repetitive and predictable nature of the tale makes it an appropriate read-aloud choice. The translation retains the meaning and flavor of the original Spanish, which appears alongside the English on each double-page spread. The folksy and brightly colored illustrations, "inspired by patterns and texture of Mexican murals," provide lively and interesting visual information. While the characters are at times a bit caricatured, this title remains a good addition to folklore collections.

Copyright (c) 1994 School Library Journal. All rights reserved.

In the Classroom

Read aloud Mediopollito Half-Chicken. After the story, on a large piece of newsprint, create a story map of the tale-a graphic organization of events and ideas important in the unfolding of the story-with your students. This will help children to recognize the structure of a story. Elicit responses from your students and ask them questions while filling out the following elements on your story map: setting, characters, quest/problem, actions, and resolution. Ask your students to draw pictures to accompany each element on the story map.

A Selection of Other Latin American Folktales

The Rooster Who Went to His Uncle's Wedding
By Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Kathleen Kuchera
A Whitebird Book, G. P. Putnam's Sons, ages 4-8
In this cumulative folktale from Latin America, a rooster muddies his shiny beak and no one-not the grass, the stick, nor the dog-will help him clean it, that is, until the sun decides to help and sets off a sequence of events.

Borreguita and the Coyote
By Verna Aardema, illustrated by Petra Mathers
Alfred A. Knopf, ages 4-8
In this trickster tale from Ayutla, Mexico, Borreguita, a clever, little lamb, eludes a hungry wolf through a series of resourceful tricks, and sends him running far away.

The Woman Who Outshone the Sun
Based on a poem by Alejandro Cruz Martinez, pictures by Fernando Olivera Children's Book Press, ages 4-8
In this retelling of the Zapotec legend of Lucia Zenteno, a beautiful woman is driven from a village by suspicious townspeople because she is different. But when their fertile river follows her in her long flowing hair, they beg her to return and learn to accept her as one of them.

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