Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth (1956)

Nate Twitchell is shocked when one of his family's hens lays an enormous egg unlike any he has seen before. Once the egg hatches, Nate becomes immediately attached to the creature inside it and becomes determined to care for it himself for as long as possible. When the government eventually gets involved, Nate continues to act in the best interest of his new friend, all while experiencing firsthand an amazing scientific experience.

This book takes a completely implausible premise (hatching a dinosaur from a chicken egg) and makes it fully believable. At every stage of the growth of the hatchling, the characters react exactly as ordinary people would when faced with the same set of circumstances. They are surprised, skeptical, and scared, but they also rise to the challenge of their unique problem and begin looking for ways to keep the creature safe while also gaining any scientific insights they can. The tone of the story is just detached enough to make it feel like a scientific report, but also emotional enough to help the reader understand Nate's fondness for the dinosaur, and his difficulty in letting him go as he ages. Though the story sounds ridiculous, it repeatedly resists becoming so, and the entire matter of the enormous egg and its contents is resolved without its ever becoming laughable.

The Enormous Egg reminds me a lot of the Henry Reed books by Keith Robertson, mostly because of the narrator's stubborn approach to caring for his egg, and because of the strongly masculine flavor of the writing and the story. This would be a great family read-aloud, especially since dinosaurs tend to interest preschoolers as much as they do teens and adults, but it's also perfect for independent reading, especially for kids whose skills are advanced but who are not ready for the more mature content of some middle grade novels. It's a compelling story well told, and a new/old favorite for me.

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