Escape from Cold Ditch

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Escape from Cold Ditch

Last Free on: 7th May 17
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...Sly humour, in-jokes, sometimes dark comedy, and a not entirely happy ending that makes this the type of children's book that will endure and a blend of sadness and humour that children will love. ...

On a free-range farm, Fleur, a special agent hen trains for her mission: to infiltrate the battery farm next door and free the other chickens! Fighting her way through barbed wire, foxes, farmers, and even traitors, she’s going to have quite the rough ride.

My first thought on reading Escape from Cold Ditch was that it was very close to the film Chicken Run (released in 2000) and then I noticed the book was written in 1995. My first thought – before I knew the book came first by five years – was that this was plagarised. When I learned the book came first, I was not surprised to learn that the author sued the filmmakers (Telegraph, 2003). The case appears to have been settled and I sincerely hope he won, as characters, music, and plot are all extremely recognisable. The only thing different is the ending and where they are going. Having read and seen both, I prefer the book.

It is easy to get a feel for the characters quickly which allows the story to move from one joke to the next and keep its plot coherent. Fleur, our plucky heroine, is well, plucky, while many of the battery hens are clucky and dithering, making her ability to lead them essential. Expect naming in-jokes, like Homer the storyteller.

Taken on its own merits this is an amusing and entertaining children’s book, with many sly nods to older readers and World War Two escape stories. If you spot the pun in the title, you’ll probably enjoy it. This is more Roald Dahl than modern tales. There’s a streak of darkness – it’s not a casualty-free escape – and a not entirely happy ending that makes this the type of children’s book that will endure and a blend of sadness and humour that readers will love.

Rating: 4
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Discussion

rz3300 (13 September 2016)
Well I for one tend to like the "not entirely happy" endings, so I am okay with that. Although I guess since it is a children's story I might have to be a little careful or practice some more discretion if I intend to share it with my audience of little ones. Blending sadness and humor is usually a recipe for a good story, though, so I am intrigued by this one.

atry (26 September 2016)
This really is stupidly close to Chicken Run. How did the film-makers expect to get away with it?

skye (2 October 2016)
It is an interesting little tale, which children may enjoy. Alan Davidson is always worth reading, but this book has been slightly overshadowed by his other titles, Marina in a Green Dress and Allison Allbright. Was this a professional release now self-published off the backlist?

clair02 (2 October 2016)
I loved the movie Chicken Run, and if this book is anything like that, then I know it's really good. The story sounds super interesting and it's one I'm sure my daughter and I will enjoy reading together every night.

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