Jones, Kelly. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
May 12th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Sophie and her parents move to her to her great uncles farm from Los Angeles when her father loses his job and her uncle dies. It's a difficult move; Sophie misses her abuela, who has passed away, as well as her extended family, and isn't too wild about the run down farm. She finds an address for a nearby company that sells "unusual chickens" and writes away for a catalog. She also finds an unusual chicken, whom she names Henrietta, who may or may not have the power to move things like the hen house! In letter to the uncle, grandmother, and the chicken company, written on an old typewriter, Sophie tries to figure out what is going on with the chickens, especially after more unusual chickens show up and a neighbor claims that they are hers. With the help of several new friends, Sophie learns how to care for chickens and decides to show her chickens and alert the area of the chicken theft attempts. In the end, she finds out some interesting things about the farm and the chickens.
Strengths: This was absolutely charming! The illustrations lend a lot to the pictures, and even though there were some sad things (job loss, death of grandmother and uncle) in the book, the story was upbeat and funny. It wasn't slap stick goofy, which makes it good for middle grade readers. I can't really explain why I liked this one so much; I just did. The diversity was nicely done as well, and the supportive community nicely described. Brava!
Weaknesses: I had my concerns that while elementary students would pick this up instantly, it might be a hard sell for middle school. This will not stop me from buying a copy and telling children "No, really. Just read this one." Luckily, most of my students know they can trust me!
What I really think: Maybe it's the warm memories of McBroom's Farm that this evoked, but I just adored this. If I had ten year olds on my gift list, I'd buy multiple copies to give away. This does have a very timeless, classic feel to it.