Happy Monday, all!
Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? doesn't come out until the fall, but I wanted to review it early, and hopefully help put it on everyone's radar.
It's the sequel to Kelly's debut novel Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, and it's the sequel I didn't know I needed. But now that I've read it, I can't imagine my life without it.
(More from this world, please, Kelly? Or even a guide of the chickens?)
Expected publication: November 6th 2018 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format read: E-galley via publisher
ISBN: 1524765929 (ISBN13: 9781524765927)
But the arrival of two new magical chickens for her flock and some unusual eggs to be incubated and hatched (what will theirsuperpowers be?), plus an impending inspection from the Unusual Poultry Committee (who even knew this existed?) has Sophie feeling pretty stressed out. Her older cousin, Lupe, is coming to stay with her family, which is great--but will Lupe like chickens too? And on top of it all, Sophie's first day at her new school is rapidly approaching!
In this wildly funny and quirky novel told in letters and lists and quizzes, Sophie learns that even an exceptional poultry farmer can use some help.
But as a huge fan of Kelly's debut, I knew I had to read the sequel. (And seriously, thank you for buying the sequel, Knopf!) So after another weekend filled to the brim with hour after hour of breaking news, I turned off the TV, got off the internet, and picked up Kelly's book.
Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? immediately felt like a return to a world that was warm and welcoming. We catch up with Sophie not too long after the events of the first book; she's settling in as the keeper of her unusual chickens, but Sophie's life is about to get a little more complicated. Two new chickens with powers arrive, and Sophie's also about to be mailed a clutch of eggs which need to be hatched. Can she handle it all?
The first thing to know about Kelly's sequel, is that she's done a wonderful job of building onto Sophie's world. Whereas Unusual Chickens was very much about establishing the idea there are in fact, unusual chickens in the world, Are You Ready...? explains about the world beyond the farmhouse. Sophie learns there are responsibilities that come with not only hatching chickens, but also continuing to care for them in a world that may not necessarily be ready for them.
But even when faced with seemingly impossible challenges - a certain chicken has gifts beyond anything Sophie has dealt with before - Kelly is particularly adept at showing how beneficial it can be, to ask for help. If anything, it shows a person's ability to recognize their own faults and/or lack of information and build on them, something a character notes later on. It's something that many young readers will like relate to, and I appreciate Kelly for taking the time to interweave such a thoughtful, overarching life lesson.
Outside of Sophie's core journey, I particularly charmed with the level of specificity Kelly put into the unusual chicken board - it's a nice nod and a wink at the idea there are likely many other Sophie-like characters populating Kelly's world, with many more chickens for us to meet.
(Seriously, Kelly: If you ever want to release an encyclopedia of chickens from this world, please do. I want to know moooooooore)
Of special notice: Sophie and her cousin do face an uncomfortable moment of racism at one point, which felt slightly like a nod to the times. Kelly's fictional way of handling the situation, is an excellent moment of allyship and camaraderie, which will set an appreciated example for all readers.
Finally, it should be pointed out: Katie Kath's illustrations continue to delight. Just like in Unusual Chickens, Kath manages to capture a vibrancy and a personality in each of the chickens, that had me wanting to learn more about them and also had me suddenly feeling nostalgic for my own chicken days.
I almost never say this - for fear of sounding like I'm trying to commercialize literature - but if Random House wanted to expand Unusual Chickens into a merchandising line, I know I'd definitely be first in line to buy prints/plushies. I can bet others would follow quickly behind.