My love of names has always been intertwined with my love of reading. So it would make sense to put some book reviews here, particularly if they're interesting in a name-y way.
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Korean author Sun-Mi Hwang might be the most perfect book ever written. I'm serious. I'm aware that it's a cutesy animal story that barely makes it to 130 pages, but trust me. This book is the best I have ever read.
Let's get to the general premise: Sprout is a egg-laying hen living an unhappy, monotonous life who longs to leave the coop and raise a chick on her own. When she starves herself and refuses to lay eggs for her human captors, they take her out of the coop and leave her to die. She tries to make friends with the animals of the barn, but they reject her. Her only friend is Straggler, a wild duck who can no longer fly.
Time passes. Sprout's dream comes true when she finds an unattended egg in a briar. Straggler dies while protecting her and the egg for reasons she does not understand at the time. When the baby hatches she goes to the barn in hopes of raising her chick there. Instead it comes out that her "chick" is actually a duckling (he's Straggler's baby) and all of the farm animals regard Sprout and her adopted son as disgraceful and unnatural. But Sprout refuses to give up on her dream of being a mother, and she is well aware that this may be her only chance. So she leaves the barn with her baby, who is eventually named Greentop, and takes her chances in the unforgiving wilderness.
It is a very simple story, but the underlying themes are so deep. Sprout encounters so many difficulties and perseveres to become a strong heroine. And yet, she's only a humble chicken. Seriously, I cannot overemphasize how impressed I was by this book.
There are not many names in this book. The outcasts are the only ones with names (I just noticed that!). The passages in which Sprout talks about her name and why she picked it for herself are wonderful:
"Sprout was the best name in the world. A sprout grew into a leaf and embraced the wind and the sun before falling and rotting and turning into mulch for bringing fragrant flowers into bloom. Sprout wanted to do something with her life, just like the sprouts on the acacia tree. That was why she'd named herself after them."
But how would Sprout work on a person?
Penelope Sprout (I almost wrote Pomona, but then I realized...)
The name does remind me of Scout, so perhaps that's why it doesn't sound totally off to me. I like it as a meaningful middle, it has a ring of hope to it. Sprout could work in the first spot, but only for the most daring of people.
This book is an incredibly popular modern classic in South Korea, with an animated film adaptation and dramatic adaptations. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly should be a classic in America too. There's no reason why it shouldn't be.