"Customs come and customs go. I learned this from the chickens." So begins this amusing tale about a flock of chickens that go on strike against an old Jewish custom called Kapores. And, really, who can blame the critters? For this New Year custom involves people twirling live chickens overhead to erase their bad deeds. It's enough to scramble any hen's head.
The story begins in a Russian-Jewish village on Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish New Year. The young boy who narrates the story longs to be good and make his Papa proud. But one thing leads to another, and before long he's sent away from the prayer house in disgrace. Outside, he encounters a parade of poultry fleeing the village. Curious, the boy follows, only to overhear some of the stirring squawks of the speaker, who calls for an end to the custom of Kapores. "No more grabbing and twirling! No more Kapores!"When the time comes for Kapores, the fowl, determined to be free, fight off the efforts of the villagers to capture them. Even a negotiating committee led by the Rabbi fails to make progress. The Rabbi's wife suggests a compromise: the villagers will hold the chickens more gently and pray more quickly. But the chickens stand firm. The villagers, they say, should simply find themselves a new custom.
As a last resort, the young boy pleads with the chickens. "Without Kapores, I will never be able to make my papa proud." The broody hen's answer spurs him into finding a way to do more good deeds and help the chickens gain their rights. This beautifully illustrated tale was adapted from a story by the great Yiddish author, Sholem Aleichem (pen name of Sholom Rabinowitz), whose work forms the basis of Fiddler on the Roof. Young readers may be inspired to ask grandparents and relatives if they ever practiced Kapores. Author Silverman notes that her mother remembers a clucking chicken being held over her head while a prayer was said. But who knows? Since then, the chickens may have all gone on strike.