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Appetite for Detention


Appetite for Detention

written by Sloane Tanen; photographed by Stefan Hagen

Prepare yourself for “chick-lit” of an entirely different sort. 

Sloane Tanen’s offbeat picture book juxtaposes poultry with teenage angst, posing little toy chickens (yep, just like the ones you see around Easter) in dioramas depicting the trials and tribulations of eight teenagers. It’s hard not to laugh out loud at these iconic depictions of adolescents navigating through their daily lives, and encountering sadistic gym teachers, mortifying parents, unrequited crushes, mean-girl cliques, schoolyard bullies, Cosmo quizzes and beauty product mishaps along the way.

For instance, we come upon a blotchy pink and yellow chick contemplating her reflection in the bedroom mirror; her little chicken eyes look forlorn and somewhat dazed. The wry comment that accompanies this picture: “Marissa awoke to a self-tanning disaster. This was so not the ‘back to school’ look she’d spent all summer masterminding.”

These fluffy chicks with their googly eyes and unexpectedly expressive faces work surprisingly well as stand-ins for people in scenes that are both funny and poignant. Tanen’s background as an artist reveals itself in the meticulously made dollhouse furniture and props that help to define each vignette. Stefan Hagen’s gorgeous photos, each of which apparently takes four to five hours to shoot, bring out the perfection of each set.

Tanen first began to create dioramas with chicks as a side project in her studio; these proved to be so popular that they helped to launch the Bitter with Baggage book series for adults and theCocoseries for children. 

APPETITE FOR DETENTION is a witty little book whose zany charm grows over time. I found myself revisiting the scenes to examine and laugh at all the details I had missed the first time around. This work may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re someone who “gets” the Monty Python-esque humor, it’s priceless. Tanen’s first book for teens would make a great gift for someone who is either going through high school or wants to relive the experience from a safe distance.

Reviewed by Usha Reynolds on July 22, 2008

Appetite for Detention
written by Sloane Tanen; photographed by Stefan Hagen

  • Publication Date: July 22, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10: 1599900750
  • ISBN-13: 9781599900759