I’ve been raising four hens since October, and so when I came upon The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, touted as the Korean Charlotte’s Web by many critics, I jumped in.
Sprout is a plucky hen who has stopped laying eggs. She lives on a farm and has never left her cage. When she is culled from the coop, she flees into the barnyard and narrowly escapes the clutches of the one-eyed weasel, but none of the farm animals will help her except for Straggler, an odd mallard duck. Sprout then finds an abandoned egg and begins brooding, and she doesn’t realize that the egg is not what it seems to be.
The book, like many good fables, seems simple on the surface, but it’s about freedom, individuality, the dream of making one’s life meaningful, the meaning of friendship, parenthood, and the cycle of life and death. It’s part fable, part philosophy, part animal story, part self-help, and it is as wonderful as Charlotte’s Web.
The book has sold more than 2 million copies and has been made into the highest-grossing animated film in Korean history.
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly: A Novel
originally published in Korea in 2000, published in U.S. in 2013
written by Sun-mi Hwang
illustrated by Nomoco
translated by Chi-Young Kim
Dewey Decimal: FIC or 895.735
Discussion Questions to ask students that address CCSS [RL.7.3 Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot]:
- How do names affect who we are? And how others see us? Consider some of the other characters’ names in the novel, such as Straggler.
- Sun-mi Hwang’s novel has been described as a modern fable. But what is a fable and how does this story conform to your understanding of the genre?
- Sprout is amazed to discover that the weasel is female – and a mother. Many readers also make the assumption that she is male. Why is this?
- Consider the relevance of the novel’s title. Perhaps start by considering both the literal and metaphorical meanings of the word ‘flight’.