Author and Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher: Dragonfly Books
Publication Year: 1990
Two sisters, Naomi and Ruth, live in an Amish community. They discover an egg in the hen house that looks different than the others. In a plain world, this egg presents intrigue. Once the egg hatches, they find a "chicken" who does not appear plain at all. In fear of the elders shunning this fancy "chicken", Naomi and Ruth attempt to hide him. With quite an entrance, the elders discover the fancy chicken and the girls learn that this peacock was meant to be fancy.
This example of realistic fiction provides a plot that readers will enjoy. Readers learn about the Amish community and easily understand the characters. Polacco's incredible illustrations add to the understanding and power of the story. Best of all, even though Polacco wrote the book in 1990, the message relates to children today.
"Naomi and Ruth are sisters who live on a farm in Pennyslvania's Amish country, where people take pride in their uncomplicated lives. But Naomi complains that everything in her life--from her clothes to her chickens--is plain. The girl longs for "something fancy." When she and Ruth find an unusual egg by the side of the road, they place it in their hen's nest, hoping it will hatch. It does, and the bird that emerges is obviously not a garden-variety chick. The sisters name it "Fancy," and keep its existence a secret from the grownups, who they fear will shun it. On the day the elders of the community have gathered for a working bee, Fancy breaks out of the henhouse and spreads its feathers in front of the group. By this time perceptive young readers will have gathered that Fancy is a peacock--and Polacco's pictures reveal it to be a magnificent one at that. Naomi is praised for raising such a beautiful bird, and learns that some kinds of "fancy" are acceptable. Polacco's warm story and sensitive illustrations offer a fresh, balanced perspective on Amish life."
Many gifted students need to learn that it is okay to be different. After hearing this story, students learn that individual differences are not only okay, but they are to be celebrated. Presenting this message through realistic fiction is perfect as it allows students to learn and almost experience the lesson as they live vicariously through the characters they read about.
In the classroom this story lends itself well to lead into discussion about what makes each of them unique. Additionally, teachers could use this story when working on realistic predictions or to offer a glimpse into life in an Amish community.