The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang
Translated by Chi-Young Kim
Reviewed by: Katie B.
This fable is about a hen who calls herself Sprout. Her life consists of laying eggs that she will never see again. She desperately wishes she could keep one egg to hatch a chick and become a mother, but on the farm this never happens. She leaves the barn she has known her whole life to venture forth into the world. It’s a story about striving for what you want, overcoming hardships, and realizing your dreams; even when those dreams are not always fulfilled in the way you had planned. It’s about motherhood, unconditional love and the sacrifices that a mother makes.
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a bestseller in South Korea. I believe it gives us a unique glimpse into a country that is rarely seen. The world depicted on the farm has an underlying darkness and the banyard community can be cruel. Maybe growing up on the border of a communist country, prone to threat, influenced the world Sun-Mi Hwang created. The original title translates to “The Hen Who Escaped From the Farm”.
South Korea is a highly-educated, economically successful country where technology and science are highly valued. Motherhood is honored, but single, unwed motherhood is still quite a shameful stigma that the woman’s family and child will share. In the last 30 years, women’s social status has improved dramatically, but South Korea is still very much a patriarchal society. Knowing that, I find it surprising and wonderful that a book about an egg-laying hen who wants to be a mom, a book that celebrates individuality, is a national bestseller. It was so popular that an animated movie based on the book was made in 2011 entitled Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild. It made box office history, with over 2 million viewers. It was the largest audience for a Korean-made animated film ever! The film rights were picked up by a Toronto based company that planned to release an English-lingo version in the US in 2012, but I couldn’t find any more news than that. It hasn’t been released in the US yet, but I bet it will in the future….especially if the book does well. And we all know the book/movie rule, right? The book is ALWAYS better!
Another aspect of this amazing story is that the Japanese artist Nomoco was specially commissioned to create the cover art and the beautiful, simple line drawings that appear throughout the book. The artwork and prose work together to make this book beautiful inside and out. You can see more of her work here: Nomoco’s artwork.
The book trailer and commentary from the translator, Chi-Young Kim can be found here:
Copies of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com.