Today, I'm glad to share the delightful Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by debut author Kelly Jones.
It's a (slightly) younger MG about a fearless young girl who moves to a different city, and ends up taking care of some unusual chickens with interesting gifts…
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Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: May 12th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2015)
Format read: ARC via publisher
With a spirited protagonist, imaginative elements and wonderful drawings, this is a book that is sure to win over readers of all ages.
Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entirehenhouse....
And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.
Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens is a quirky, clucky classic in the making.
Debut author Kelly Jones introduces readers to twelve-year-old Sophie Brown, whose family has recently moved to her great-uncle's farm. Sophie and her parents are trying to stay positive through a tough time - Sophie's mom is struggling with her freelance articles, while Sophie's father is trying to find a job and hasn't had much luck.
However, things begin to change, when Sophie comes across a chicken who seems to be able to move things with her mind…
From the moment I started reading Unusual Chickens, I knew that I was going to love this book. Jones absolutely nails the youthful humor and sincere intelligence of Sophie's voice, as Sophie realizes that her great uncle was raising some seriously unusual chickens on his farm, and it's now up to her to bring them all home and make sure that they're protected.
(It's not every twelve-year-old who will write a letter to their deceased uncle, telling him that his chicken knows how to use the Force!)
As Sophie works to make sure that she's equipped to take care of her newfound chickens, Jones smartly shows Sophie taking advantage of her new environment to responsibly learn all of the skills needed for her new pets. This isn't someone who's picking up a hobby willy-nilly, and parents and educators will likely appreciate Sophie's determination to do proper research and ask for adult help on chicken rearing.
(Additionally, Jones incorporates detailed, thoughtful renderings on chicken-raising, which when paired with Kath's hilarious and accurate drawings, will likely make readers want to pick up chickens of their very own!)
Sophie's determination to properly care for the chickens begins to transform the rest of her life as well, and Jones hilariously, thoughtfully shows how through Sophie's determination to protect her chickens, she inspires her parents to try new things, and also helps herself come to terms with her new environment, and losing her grandmother.
Even as Sophie's chickens are threatened by a would-be thief, Jones is careful to show Sophie quietly standing up for herself against the face of a determined adult. It's a subtle but nice reminder which emphasizes the idea that the thoughts and opinions of young teens should not matter less than adults, and it's heartwarming to see Sophie's new neighbors and friends agree.
Of course, all of this is accentuated by illustrator Katie Kath's hilarious and absolutely perfect drawings. To paraphrase Kirkus, Kath clearly understands the innate wackiness that a chicken has, and adds those touches and details to Sophie's flock.
Things to consider:
I’m not an expert in gearing books toward younger readers, but I would love to hear how any educators/librarians/parents encourage any readers to pick up this most deserving title, and I know I'll be conferring with my librarian friends as well!
This is a fantastic book on finding your place and taking responsibility for yourself and for others, while also standing up for your rights, even if is for something a little more unusual and exceptional than most would believe. Jones's book practically vibrates with joy, positivity and truly excellent chicken care tips, which are only accentuated by Kath's hilarious and spot-on drawings.
I highly, highly recommend this book for all readers, but especially for parents and educators who are looking for books that have feisty heroines, and also emphasize how responsibility and commitment can change an entire community.