Unusual chickens for the exceptional poultry farmer

Kelly 1976- Jones

Book - 2015

Through a series of letters, Sophie Brown, age twelve, tells of her family's move to her Great Uncle Jim's farm, where she begins taking care of some unusual chickens with help from neighbors and friends.

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf [2015]
First edition
Physical Description
216 p. : col. ill. ; 22 cm
Main Author
Kelly 1976- Jones (-)
Other Authors
Katie Kath (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown has a lot on her plate: her beloved abuelita is dead; her father has lost his job, so the family has moved from L.A. to her great-uncle Jim's farm while they regroup; she has no friends; and most people she encounters in the predominantly white town think she is a migrant worker. In an attempt to stave off loneliness, Sophie contacts a poultry farm and requests information on purchasing and raising chickens. In a sequence of letters, Sophie tells the story of how she comes into the possession of five extraordinary chickens, foils the attempts of a neighboring farmer to steal her distinctive poultry, and eventually finds her place in her new community. Full-page illustrations work with the epistolary format to tell a story that is as much about the process of grieving as it is about supernatural chickens. The combination of real-life emotion and otherworldly farming makes for a comedic story with the right amount of pathos. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Jones debuts with a comically poignant story composed of the letters that 12-year-old Sophie Brown writes to a pair of deceased relatives: her much-missed Abuelita and her great-uncle Jim, whose California farm Sophie has just moved to with her parents. Also in the mix are Sophie's letters to the owner of Redwood Farm Supply, whose advice Sophie seeks as she discovers some of her great-uncle's far-from-normal chickens on the property (one appears to have telekinetic powers, for starters). Kath's wiry and playful b&w illustrations carry hints of George Booth's work and add substantial humor to the story (dyspeptic chicken Henrietta is especially memorable). Amid Sophie's entertaining attempts to secure the chickens (and keep them safe from a dodgy neighbor), Jones sensitively captures the preteen's feelings of isolation, her growing awareness of racial issues that affect her ("Mom... says you have to be twice as honest and neighborly when everyone assumes you're an undocumented immigrant"), and her family's simmering economic stresses. Better yet, there's still plenty of room for Sophie's story (and her flock) to grow. Ages 8–12. Author's agent: Mandy Hubbard, D4EO Literary Agency. Illustrator's agency: Shannon Associates. (May) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4–6—Sophie Brown is new to farm life, new to being one of the only "brown people" in town (the others being her mother and Gregory, the mailman), and definitely new to caring for chickens—and these are some challenging chickens. To help herself adjust to life away from Los Angeles and her extended family, she writes letters to her great-uncle Jim and her beloved Abuelita, both recently deceased, and embarks on a correspondence course in poultry care with the mysterious Agnes of Redwood Farm Supply. Agnes's poorly typed responses assure Sophie that the chickens that keep turning up on the farm (including Henrietta, a small white hen with a permanent unibrow of fury) belonged to her great-uncle, from whom Sophie's father inherited the farm and who implores her to keep the chickens safe—and to be careful. But how will she protect chickens that are capable of levitating their own coop, becoming invisible, and turning enemies to stone? And why does the town's resident chicken expert, Ms. Griegson, seem intent on stealing Sophie's brood? Told in letters, quizzes, newspaper clippings, and delicious ink drawings reminiscent of Quentin Blake, this middle grade epistolary novel has a little magic and a lot of warm family humor. Jones delivers a dynamic Latina protagonist in Sophie, who describes her experiences in satisfying detail: the discomfort of facing microaggressions based on her heritage (such as when the town librarian assumes that she and her family are migrant workers); love and concern for her parents, both struggling to find and keep work; and willingness to learn and grow despite typical tween self-consciousness. VERDICT Readers will cheer for Sophie and clamor for more of those amazing chickens. Exceptional, indeed.—Amy Martin, Oakland Public Library, CA [Page 87]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Feeling like a fish out of water when her family moves from Los Angeles to a recently inherited chicken farm, 12-year-old Sophie encounters a telekinetic chicken and her equally unusual flockmates, who are endangered by a thieving farmer. Simultaneous eBook.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Fans of Katherine Applegate and Erin Entrada Kelly will love this quirky story of a determined girl, and some extraordinary chickens.   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 entire henhouse....   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.