Not All Her Eggs In One Basket!…………..The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly…….14 years after it became a phenomenon in South Korea, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang is now getting a lot of attention in the UK. In the last 9 months or so it’s been pretty visible in our bookshops. I walked past it every time though, thinking “not for me”.

Then I read a review of it from Claire at Word for Word and it changed my mind (Claire’s blog often makes me change my mind!!!), and I’m glad I did. For the story of Sprout, the battery hen with big dreams and an even bigger spirit is one of those books that just makes you feel good as you read it.

Sprout’s life is a monotonous conveyor-belt like existence of sitting in the chicken coop, producing eggs which are whisked away from her and waiting out the days till she can no longer produce eggs and will be culled. But caged as she is, Sprout also sees the world beyond the fence and she is drawn to it and inspired by it. She names herself Sprout because she’s fascinated by the way the seeds on the acacia tree she can see fall, settle into the ground and then in the following spring, sprout new foliage. Around her is a seeming acceptance of this turgid, inevitable, fate for the hens, but Sprout has other ideas. She’s desperate to hold onto and hatch one of those eggs she produces and so before it’s too late. To hatch an egg, she hatches a plan! To escape, roam free like other farm animals she sees, and become a mother.

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

To have any chance of fulfilling her dreams Sprout has to first find a way out of the coop. She can’t do that without being ready to take a risk and so right from the start of this book there is a clever moral message for our lives. From that point Sprout has to take more risks and be dogged and determined to pursue her dreams.

On one level you could interpret The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly as a children’s book. I think younger children might certainly enjoy it being read to them but it’s really aimed at adults. In the various quotes on the cover and initial pages of my edition, there are comparisons drawn with EB White’s ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and Richard Bach’s ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull.’ Personally, although I see the connection in both allegorical themes and the setting between it and Charlotte’s Web, I thought this book was much more like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. They share that sense of ambition, the will to live, and that feeling of facing whatever fate or destiny might have in store for us.

I took from the book a strong feel of three sorts of difficulties that Sprout, and therefore all of us, face in our lives – those that are physical and real, those that come from others and those that lie within us. There are strong themes of family, love, prejudice, facing fears and making sacrifices throughout the book. At its core though is its message about what it takes to live life in a way that’s true to ones self rather than sheltering behind the safety of the herd.

At every turn the book has a simple, natural style. It’s written with a light, almost conversational feel, and the translation here works exceptionally well. For all that it is easy to read on one level, it’s also powerful enough to make you engage with Sprout and care about what happens to her. And of course, as any good allegorical story should, it makes you reflect on yourself, the lives of those around you and what it means to live life.

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a really good, well told modern fable about a small hen with big ideas, big plans and the biggest of hearts to match. As one of Sprout’s flying ambition contemporaries Orville Wright once said, “If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance”. Sprout would definitely agree!

Book Info

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang was published by Oneworld Publications. It was translated by Chi-Young Kim. The gorgeous illustrations in the book were done by Kazuko Nomoto. 

I bought it on the strength of a review of it at one of my favourite blogs, Word by Word

If you’re interested in finding out a little more about the author there’s a QandA here which she did for a recent appearance at the Cambridge Book Festival. If you want to find out more about the book, or even try before you buy, there’s a reading guide and a large extract here at Oneworld

Book Rating Out of 10 (you can find info on my Rating Scale here)


4 thoughts on “Not All Her Eggs In One Basket!…………..The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang”

  1. So great to be reminded of Sprout and I am very happy to hear that it is being seen in bookshops too. She is a plucky thing with more than the average chicken’s altruism in her character. I like her much more than The Little Red Hen and agree it could work for both children and adults alike🙂

    We have Joseph Boyden in town this weekend Col, reading from his book The Orenda.I am double booked and wondering if I can turn up to the reading in my vintage outfit to save time between rdv’s. Your review convinced me it’s a must read for 2014 and to have the author on our doorstep, who I hear is very engaging in person, well, I might have to be bold.Maybe a photo opp.🙂

    1. Thanks for heads up you gave me on Sprout – even though it was recently getting a push here I don’t think I’d have got beyond my usual “Not for me!” if I hadn’t read your review! And am envious of your forthcoming chance to go hear Joseph Boyden. If he’s half as engaging to listen to as The Orenda is to read then I’d think it would be fascinating. I hope you can make it – if you do let me know what you think!

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