Tag Archives: alligator

Day 92 – An Extraordinary Egg

In honor of April Fool’s Day yesterday we read “An Extraordinary Egg” by Leo Lionni, an adorable story about friendship and childlike wonder. The book is easily recognizable as a Lionni creation, with his simple and vibrant combination of collage and pastel that I have always found charming. Oh, and the book also made us laugh out loud!

LionniJessica is a frog who is full of wonder. She spends her days wandering the far side of Pebble Island, and always seems to return home with something exciting – even if it’s just an ordinary pebble. The other two frogs on the island, Marilyn and August, are never very impressed – until one day Jessica brings home a large white “pebble” that is “as round as the full moon.”  Marilyn, who is a self-professed expert on all things, announces that Jessica has found a “chicken egg.” When the “chicken” hatches and looks – to the reader – very much like a baby alligator, Marilyn proclaims “I was right! It is a chicken.” They are impressed with how well their new chicken friend can swim, and they play in the water from “sunup to sundown” for days. When the chicken saves Jessica’s life one afternoon (she had gotten tangled in some weeds under the water), the two become inseparable friends. Then one day, a little bird alights and tells the chicken that her mother has been looking for her. Jessica and the chicken follow the bird for a day and a night until they find the “most extraordinary creature” either of them had ever seen: the chicken’s mother (who also looks remarkably like an alligator).

Throughout the book, we kept waiting for the frogs to have an epiphany, but they never do. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of their error, it never occurs to them that their friend is anything but a chicken. That’s what made this book so funny to us. It’s like Leo Lionni is playing the “straight man” (in the comedic sense) while the rest of us can’t stop laughing. We loved how the frogs immediately welcome a new friend regardless of her very different physical appearance; it’s a complete non-issue. There is also something very zen and comforting about Jessica’s cheerful acceptance of the fact that her friend has to leave to be with her mother: “I’ll miss you very much, little chicken. Come visit us soon – and bring your mother too,” says Jessica…and then she moves on. By the time she gets back to the other frogs, she’s just excited to tell them about her experience, and about the silly mother chicken who called her own child an “alligator.”

We originally intended on reading a whole bundle of April Fools books specifically written for the holiday…but after acquiring them from the library, we were unimpressed. This Leo Lionni book was a last-minute substitute, and a wonderful one at that. In the end, keeping in mind the theme of the day, we had to wonder – were the frogs the April Fools for not recognizing the alligator in their midst, or were we the fools for not realizing that the joke was really on us?