Charlie Changes into a Chicken is the first book in a hilarious new series and is the debut read from Sam Copeland.
Nine-year-old Charles McGuffin (or Charlie as he is better known) is just like you, or at least he would be if you too could change into animals. For a nine-year-old, Charlie has quite a lot going on in his life…his brother is in hospital waiting for a very important scan, his parents are worrying about his brother, and he, amongst other things, is trying to survive school and stay out of the sights of bully Dylan. All of these events are taking their toll on young Charlie and his list of worries becomes longer when his eye starts twitching and a strange feeling courses through his body and gives him the shock of his life and a major worry. Charlie has inherited a new power, the power to turn into animals. Sounds great, right? Except Charlie has no control over it and could really do with not turning into an animal during the school production in two weeks time. Luckily, he has three friends who are all keen to do whatever it takes to uncover how and why Charlie turns into a chic…(well, spoiler alert - he never actually turns into a chicken but he does turn into other animals but you’ll have to read on yourself to find out exactly what). Can Charlie and his friends uncover the mystery to Charlie’s new superpower…
Copeland’s debut book feels very real and believable (children turning into animals aside) and is packed to the brim with humour that oozes out of the fast-paced plot and brilliantly comical illustrations by Sarah Horne. Highly amusing footnotes provide further comedy and often extend a joke further and a strong authorial voice makes it feel like Copeland is speaking directly to the reader. Copeland regularly drops in to discuss the plot with the reader, throws in an interlude and provides impromptu question and answer sessions through the use of fictional readers.
On the face of it the book is about three friends helping their other friend solve a problem. But within all the laughs, mishaps, turning into animals and toilet humour (a lot of toilet humour) there are important messages about coping with and understanding stress and anxiety, and the difficulty that one has when dealing with the sickness of a loved one. Copeland has managed to strike the perfect balance of humour whilst subtlety introducing readers to bigger and real issues. Yes, Charlie turning into animals is far-fetched and silly but the bigger picture is that this happens to him when he gets stressed and worried. Other themes and issues are carefully crafted into the narrative including bullying, family and friendship issues and the everyday challenges of school life.
Like Charlie, readers will find much comfort and support in his friendship group who are always there for him. Charlie’s diverse group of friends are desperate to help him work through his problem and they provide lovely messages on teamwork, loyalty and sticking-up for your mates. Flora is the stand-out friend - she is the brains of the bunch and is the one coming up with different theories and ideas and whilst she fails at first she perseveres and never gives up providing a valuable lesson to readers. Charlie and his friends will be relatable to many readers as will the many situations in which the friends find themselves
A brilliant and funny read that introduces readers to the big ideas and emotions of anxiety and stress without these ever feeling overbearing. With Sam Copeland’s assured author voice throughout, the reader is in very good hands.
Recommended for 8+.