Waiting for Chicken Smith
About the book
'Every year, I stay in the same cabin at the beach with my family, and every year Chicken Smith's here too, with his Dad and his dog, Jelly. But this year, something's different.' As we hang on the words of the narrator, we learn of the legendary Chicken Smith and the beachside town that has been the backdrop to their school-holiday adventures for years. But will Chicken Smith turn up this year? Or will a friendship of a different kind blossom. A story about childhood friendship, the inevitability of change and the magic of anticipation.
About the author
David Mackintosh has been writing and illustrating picture books since leaving university where he received the Macmillan Picture Book Prize. His debut work Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2011. The Frank Show was a USBBY (the United States Board on Books for Young People) Outstanding International Book in 2013 and also longlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. He followed these with Standing In for Lincoln Green, which was shortlisted for the Western Writers of America Spur Awards, and Little Hare's Archie and the Bear, which was named a notable book in the 2018 Children's Book Council of Australia Book Awards.
At first reading, this deceptively simple picture book describes a boy waiting for his holiday friend, Chicken Smith, to arrive in the rickety fisherman's shack next door and to fill summer with the adventure, companionship and promise of previous summers. Meanwhile, the boy's sister gets on with embracing the moment, and though she repeatedly invokes him to join her, he takes no notice. The main character, whose name we never learn, dawdles and waits, remembering with seeming hero-worship what Chicken Smith once said and what he once did, oblivious to how his reminiscences reveal what a shallow, flawed and one-sided holiday friendship the relationship had actually been. Eventually, tired of waiting, the boy reluctantly follows his excited sister. She leads him to the headland—where the boy and Chicken Smith had often, unsuccessfully, looked for whales—and gives him his very first whale sighting.
Waiting for Chicken Smith is a powerful example of the potentials of picture-book art. Author-illustrator David Mackintosh tells a salutary story of childhood betrayal, sibling loyalty and the importance of living in the moment without stooping to either articulate or explain. Interweaving three allusive layers of storytelling—the main character's first-person narration, the objective yet humorous illustrations of a typical Australian holiday community, and the dramatic irony that infuses both—Mackintosh creates an overarching narrative that is greater and more profound than the sum of its many parts, and that continues to reveal further depth, nuance and artistry with each subsequent reading.