A child in a chicken suit
C.B. Canga

Brave Chicken

Izzy wants to make a difference. Can a chicken suit help?

By Donna Gephart
From the October/November 2018 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will analyze how a character changes in a story about an anxious girl who overcomes her fears to stand up for what she believes is right.

Lexile: 600L-700L
Guided Reading Level: S
DRA Level: 40
Topic: SEL,


As you read, think about how Izzy changes from the beginning of the story to the end.


Izzy sat across the kitchen table from her friend Viktor and stared at two large chicken costumes. She nervously nibbled on a fingernail.

“Don’t be a chicken,” Viktor said. “It’s only a costume. Besides, it’s probably our last year to go trick-or-treating. Let’s go big or go home.”

“Viktor,” Izzy sighed, “I’m not dressing as a giant chicken for Halloween. Everyone will stare at us.”

“Buk-buk-buk!” Viktor put his hands in his armpits and flapped.

Izzy bit her lower lip. She wished she were brave, like Viktor. Last week, when kids at their lunch table started flinging Tater Tots at each other, Izzy didn’t say anything—even though she knew the nice lunchroom monitor would have to deal with the mess. But Viktor had yelled at everyone to cut it out and clean up. And they did. Viktor was the opposite of a chicken.

“For once in your life, be brave.” Viktor held a chicken costume out to her.

“Sorry,” she muttered. Izzy was planning to wear the same costume she’d worn the past two Halloweens: an old-fashioned reporter’s hat and notebook. No one ever guessed Izzy was dressed as Nellie Bly, a famous newspaper writer from the 1800s. As a young reporter, Nellie was known for being fearless. She pretended to be mentally ill to report on terrible conditions in an asylum. She got herself arrested in order to investigate a prison. She even traveled around the entire world by herself, writing a book about her adventures.

Izzy was nervous just to go trick-or-treating around her own neighborhood.

As usual, Viktor was right. On Halloween, everyone loved his chicken costume—they smiled and laughed as he approached on large orange feet and waggled his wings. Those same people had no idea who Izzy was supposed to be. Later, when they dumped their candy onto the carpet in Izzy’s living room, Viktor had way more full-sized candy bars. Izzy jealously eyed the giant Snickers but wasn’t brave enough to ask for it. Nellie Bly definitely would have asked. Or she would have just grabbed it and taken a big chocolaty bite!

I’ve got to learn to be brave, Izzy told herself, so I can become a reporter someday, like Nellie Bly.


The next morning, Izzy read the newspaper with her dad, like always.

“Did you see this?” he asked. “It’s an article about the new law letting people raise chickens in their backyards. The city council is voting on it at a special meeting this Saturday. Some people really don’t want the law to pass.”

“Why not?” Izzy asked. “Having chickens in your backyard would be great. You could get eggs whenever you want.”

“They think the chickens will make a lot of noise and spread diseases.” Izzy’s dad handed her the newspaper. “Here. Read it.”

Something stirred inside Izzy as she read. Who wouldn’t want chickens to roam free in nice people’s yards?

After school, Izzy went online to do more research. She learned that chickens need space and fresh air to thrive—that cooped up in small cages, they can’t grow properly. Izzy thought back to the chickens she’d seen at her neighborhood’s fall fair last month, squeezed wing-to-wing in cramped coops. They’d barely had enough space to turn around. Izzy had wanted to set them all free, but she would never dare to do something like that.

As Izzy researched, an email popped up on her screen. It was from her school’s Friends of Animals Club. “Join the march at Town Hall to support the law allowing backyard chickens!” the email read.

Thinking about joining a public march made Izzy’s stomach hurt. But at least she’d be doing something to help the chickens.

At dinner that night, Izzy said, “Dad, some kids from the Friends of Animals Club at school are marching on Saturday to support the chicken law.” Her voice quavered. “I want to go with them.”

Izzy’s dad chewed thoughtfully. “Honey, I’m proud of you for wanting to help the chickens,” he said. “But I’m not sure about this. What if marchers from the other side show up and cause trouble?”

Izzy hadn’t thought of that. Her heart pounded.

“What if it gets out of hand and police come?”

Izzy had been secretly hoping her dad wouldn’t let her go. But now she thought again of the chickens crammed into tight cages at the fall festival. She imagined how much happier they would be wandering through a sunny backyard, the wind tickling their feathers. That would never happen if the law didn’t pass on Saturday.

“Dad, please,” she said. “Chickens can’t speak up for themselves. Someone has to do it!”

Izzy’s dad smiled. “You can go if you promise to stick with the other kids from school. And see if Viktor will go with you.”

Izzy swallowed past the tightness in her throat. “Great!” she said weakly.


Later, Viktor was excited about joining the march. “We can wear the costumes from Halloween. That way, people driving by will notice us and pay more attention to what we have to say!”

Izzy didn’t want people to pay more attention to her, but she reminded herself it was for the chickens. “OK,” she agreed, putting the finishing touches on the sign she was making. It read, “Chickens need open space and fresh air!” Viktor’s said, “Stand up for chickens. Vote YES on the law!”

As the day of the march came closer, Izzy felt more and more shaky. What if a fight broke out with the people who didn’t want the law to pass? What if the police were called? What if she went to jail? Izzy wanted to talk to Viktor at school on Friday; she knew he’d make her feel better. But he wasn’t there.

On Saturday morning, Izzy was too worried to eat much at breakfast. Could she really stand in front of Town Hall wearing a chicken costume and holding a sign that some people wouldn’t like?

The doorbell rang, making her jump. “Must be Viktor. I’ll get it.”

Viktor’s nose was bright red. He sneezed four times in a row. He was holding only one chicken costume. And a tissue.

“Where’s the other costume?” Izzy asked.

“I’m thick.” Viktor coughed. “Too thick to go.”

“But Viktor, you can’t be sick. Not today!”

Viktor shrugged. “Thorry.” He handed Izzy the costume. “I’m going back to bed. Achoo!

Izzy clutched the costume to her chest. I can’t do this alone! she thought.

“Sure you still want to go?” her dad asked from behind her.

Izzy wasn’t sure at all. But she grabbed her sign and headed out toward the car.

As they pulled into the parking lot near Town Hall, Izzy’s stomach hurt. She saw a crowd of people in front of the building, yelling and holding signs. Some of the signs had a red slash over a chicken and the words “Not in our neighborhood!”

“You definitely want to go out there?” Izzy’s dad asked.

No! she wanted to scream.

“I can take you back home.”

Izzy thought again of Nellie Bly. She wondered if Nellie would wear a chicken costume. Izzy decided she would, for a good cause.

She opened the car door and put one rubbery chicken foot on the ground, then the other. Nellie Bly must have been scared to do the things she did, Izzy realized, but she did them anyway.

“Hey, who’s the chicken?” one of the kids from the Friends of Animals Club yelled.

I’m no chicken, Izzy thought. “It’s me, Izzy!” She walked toward the group.

“I’ll pick you up at lunch,” her dad called. “Text if you need anything before then.”

Izzy waved a wing at him.

She joined the others as they marched back and forth in front of Town Hall, holding up their signs and yelling, “Vote YES on the law. Don’t be a chicken!”

Other people nearby yelled, “Vote NO on the law!”

Izzy trembled, but she kept marching. And as she walked and shouted, she stood a little taller in her chicken costume.

Some people drove by and honked.

Others gave her a thumbs-up.

Izzy kept marching and yelling till her throat was sore.

A news van pulled up, and a reporter walked toward Izzy. “Can I ask you a few questions?” she asked.

Izzy nodded her chicken head.

“What’s your name, and why are you here?”

“My name is Izzy. I’m here to stand up for the chickens. They deserve fresh air and plenty of room to roam.” Then Izzy swallowed hard and pulled her chicken self up straight. “You know, I’m going to be a reporter like you someday.” And like Nellie Bly, she said to herself.

“Hey,” the reporter said. “Would you like to write a short article about the march from a young marcher’s perspective?”

Before Izzy could think, the word yes had popped out of her mouth.


The next morning, Izzy walked over to Viktor’s house to return the chicken costume and bring him a container of homemade soup.

“I hope you feel better soon, Viktor,” she said.

But Viktor seemed to have completely forgotten about his cold. “I thaw your article in the newthpaper today,” he said excitedly. “And the counthil’s YETH vote. I’ll bet the march had a big effect on that vote.”

Izzy smiled and nodded.

“You did it,” Viktor said. “You were a brave chicken. Achoo!

This article was originally published in the October/November 2018 issue.

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Activities (7)
Quizzes (2)
Quizzes (2)
Answer Key (1)
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Answer Key (1)

More About the Story


vocabulary, compare and contrast, summarizing, plot, cause and effect, text evidence, literary device, theme, author’s craft, narrative writing

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning/Purpose

"Brave Chicken" tells the story of an anxious girl who learns to stand up for what she believes in despite her fears. The nature of bravery and the importance of being the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves are explored.


The story is told from the main character’s point of view and is chronological.


The story includes a few challenging words, such as asylum and quavered, and features puns on the word chicken.

Knowledge Demands 

No special background knowledge is needed.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Set a Purpose for Reading (3 minutes)  

  • Ask a volunteer to read aloud the Up Close box on page 10.
  • Storyworks fiction is a “kit,” with close-reading questions right on the page to help students understand the story and practice thinking and questioning while they read—a habit they can apply to any story.
  • Point out to students the bubbles in the margins of the story and the arrows that connect each one to a sentence in bold. Preview the questions in the bubbles with them.

Vocabulary (15 minutes)

  • Distribute our vocabulary activity to preview five words. Students will also be able to add other words from the story that are unfamiliar to them.
  • Vocabulary words include asylum, investigate, roam, thrive, and quavered.

2. Close Reading

First Read: Get to Know the Text (20 minutes)

  • Read the story aloud as a class, or play our audio version as students follow along in their magazines

Second Read: Unpack the Text (30 minutes)

  • Have small groups read the story again, pausing to discuss the close-reading questions in the margins. They can then respond on their own paper. Answers are below.
  • Discuss the critical-thinking questions.

Answers to Close-Reading Questions

  • Compare and Contrast (p. 11) Unlike Izzy, Viktor bravely takes action. Both were concerned about doing the right thing when their classmates started throwing Tater Tots, but only Viktor spoke up—while Izzy stayed quiet.
  • Character (p. 11) Izzy is unhappy about her hesitant and fearful nature. She wishes she were brave and knows she will need to be courageous to follow her dream of being a reporter, like her hero Nellie Bly.
  • Summarizing (p. 12) Supporters of the law realize that chickens need fresh air and space to grow properly. Those who oppose it are concerned about the possibility of noise and diseases from the chickens.
  • Plot (p. 12) Izzy wants to help improve the well-being of animals by marching in support of the chicken law, but the idea of participating in a public march scares her.
  • Text Evidence (p. 12) Izzy probably feels nervous but determined when she says this. The thought of going to the march makes her stomach hurt, but she wants to do what she believes is the right thing. She may be thinking about Nellie Bly, who took risks to write stories about people who couldn’t speak up for themselves. In a similar way, Izzy feels strongly that she must speak up for the chickens, even though she’s scared to do so.
  • Character (p. 13) Izzy’s worries about all the things that could go wrong at the march show that she is an anxious person. Answers will vary.
  • Plot (p. 13) When Izzy finds out that Viktor is too sick to march with her, she has serious doubts about being able to go to the march on her own.
  • Cause and Effect (p. 13) Realizing that Nellie Bly must have been scared at times helps Izzy understand that it’s possible to push past your fears and do what you believe is important.
  • How a Character Changes (p. 14) By standing taller in her chicken outfit, Izzy shows that she is feeling more confident and less fearful.
  • Vocabulary (p. 14) Perspective means “point of view,” or “one person’s way of looking at something.” A newspaper might want Izzy’s perspective to help readers understand why some young people care about how chickens are treated.
  • Literary Device (p. 14) Chicken is slang for someone who is afraid. When Viktor calls Izzy a “brave chicken,” he is making a joke because brave and chicken are opposites that seem funny when put together. Viktor is also referring to how Izzy has been scared in the past but shows courage at the march. Adding to the humor, Izzy marches in a chicken suit, making her an actual brave chicken.

Critical-Thinking Question

  • Mark Twain said that “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear— not absence of fear.” What do you think this quote means? How does it apply to Izzy? (theme) Being brave doesn’t mean you have no fear. Being brave means facing your fears and not letting them stop you. Izzy shows courage when she decides to go to the march even though she has many fears about being there.
  • The author lets you know what Izzy is thinking throughout the story. Why do you think the author shares Izzy’s thoughts with readers? (author’s craft) Knowing Izzy’s thoughts helps you understand her fears. You can better appreciate how hard it is for her to overcome her worries and act bravely. This helps you relate to Izzy and be interested in what happens to her.

3. Skill Building

Featured Skill: Character

  • Distribute our character activity. It will help students prepare to respond to the writing prompt on page 14.

Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

Read the story with students over a few days, pausing to discuss questions in the margins and other questions they have. Then ask them to write one paragraph about how Izzy changes in the story. Brainstorm a topic sentence together. 

For Advanced Readers

Have students research Izzy’s hero, Nellie Bly. Students should write a brief report about Bly, including why she is a good role model for Izzy. 

For ELL Students

Have students look at the title of the story. Explain that chicken is slang for someone who is fearful. Use this as a jumping off point to explore other ways to describe being afraid. Share these words and idioms, discussing which show the most and least fear: nervous, having cold feet, afraid, frightened, scared, spooked, terrified, panicked, scared stiff

For Independent Reading

Have students read “Brave Chicken” on their own and respond to the writing prompt on page 14. Use their responses to gauge how well they understood the story, then follow up to fill in anything they missed.