What Does the Rooster Say? (An NEA Big Read quiz)

By Amy Stolls

If you haven't yet read Yu Hua's novel To Live, one of our NEA Big Read book selections, translated from the Chinese by Michael Berry—this might be the perfect time to check it out. The Chinese New Year begins on January 28 and—as each new year is characterized by one of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac—it's the start of the Year of the Rooster.

We got to thinking ... roosters make very distinct sounds. What other distinctive sounds can be found in our NEA Big Read titles? See if you can match the sounds below with the books they represent. Bonus question: in which book is there a prominent character named "Rooster"?


1. Heavy thunder
2. Loud blowing of a hooded hair dryer
3. Train whistle
4. Bell triggered by the door of a convenience store
5. Rattle of an old film projector
6. Waves crashing against the side of a wooden ship
7. Squeaky wheel of a horse-drawn wagon
8. Sawing and hammering


1. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Several scenes describe soldiers moving through the dense jungles of Vietnam in heavy downpour.

2. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. Several scenes are set in a Georgia beauty salon called the Pink Fox, owned by Laverne (Chaurisse’s mother).

3. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. The novel opens with a family forced to board a train headed to an internment camp. The protagonists hear the whistle after each stop.

4. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu. The main character, Sepha Stephanos, runs a small grocery shop in Washington D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood.

5. Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. Members of a small Mexican village gather to watch movies in the town square. A showing of The Magnificent Seven is what sets the novel’s protagonist, Nayeli, off on her journey to the U.S.

6. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Ged, the main character of this fantasy novel, journeys across rough seas through an intricately mapped archipelago.

7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The symphony troop in this post-apocalyptic world travels from settlement to settlement in a horse-drawn wagon.

8. Five Skies by Ron Carlson. The novel takes place on a construction site in Idaho as the three protagonists set out to build a ramp across a canyon.


Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn appears in Charles Portis’s True Grit. He’s a federal marshal hired by a young girl to track down her father’s murderer.