Charlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland Book Review: Dealing with Anxiety Through Laughter and Friendship

Charlie Changes into a ChickenCharlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland (writer) and Sarah Horne (illustrator), £6.99 (Penguin, 9780241346211)
Publication date: 7 February 2019
My rating: 

Meet Charlie. He’s a fairly normal nine-year-old who enjoys playing FIFA on the PS4 and tries to stay positive—even though he’s the target of the school bully and his brother is in hospital. Oh, and he also happens to turn into a colourful menagerie of animals when he least expects it, from a high-hopping flea to an incontinent rhino.

Young readers are sure to be delighted by Charlie’s lively tale, which begins in action-packed fashion and manages to sustain its pace throughout. Each animal transformation is as unpredictable as its consequences, setting off an imaginative chain of preposterous events.

Copeland constructs an entertaining ensemble cast of characters, each with their own quirks and foibles; my favourite was the ever-inquisitive Flora, who acts as both the brains and the brawn of the bunch.

This book would be ideal for reading aloud, with numerous humorous asides and footnotes, playful language and dialogue and a self-aware narrative voice that doesn’t take itself too seriously or underestimate its target audience. The illustrations from Sarah Horne complement the text perfectly, bringing the wonderfully weird characters to life and giving the pages variety and shape.


I might not be the intended audience for this book, but Charlie’s escapades will be a sure-fire hit with fans of Kid Normal and David Walliams. At its heart, however, the book carries an important, though far from heavy-handed, message on dealing with difficulties through laughter and friendship. This will likely resonate with anyone who has worried about things beyond their control or been through hard times—which is just about all of us.

Note: I received a free proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review was originally posted in the NYALitFest newsletter.

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