Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

9780385755559

by Kelly Jones

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Sophie Brown and her parents have just moved from Los Angeles to a farm in the country following her father’s job loss. They are taking over the farm that belonged to her father’s Uncle Jim, who apparently used to have some unusual chickens on it. Between finding the chickens, discovering their unusual qualities (one lays glass eggs, one has chicks who can turn animals to stone, one can turn invisible, etc), and learning to care for them, Sophie also has to fend off a would-be chicken thief, a feat she manages with considerable grace given the circumstances. She even makes some new friends along the way which will ease her transition to her new school in the fall. My favorite thing is her friendship with the mailman, Gregory, which reminded me a bit of my favorite mailman, Donald, when I was a kid. But I digress.

This was a solid story. It’s epistolary, and sometimes the letter format seemed a bit clunky, like when Sophie wrote several letters to the same person in one day, because so much happened (near the denouement), or when she really needed an answer by the next day but mail takes a bit longer than that, even in Gregory’s speedy and capable hands. I did not suspect the twist until pretty close to its reveal, which is always satisfying. And I liked that the evil grownup got what she deserved – but also that she seemed more complex than just pure evil. Sophie’s mother is of Mexican descent and her father is white, and she mentions race quite a bit. She says people are always assuming her family works on a farm, like as harvesters or migrant farmworkers, and how that hurts to hear over and over. Also it’s a small town and people are always surprised and confused that she’s Jim Brown’s great-niece, and then someone explains that she’s half Mexican, and that also seems to not sit well. But meanwhile, Sophie’s mom is a writer and keeps the family afloat, and the whole family has fun singing and dancing one night, and she makes migas with some of the eggs they get from Uncle Jim’s chickens, even providing the recipe and a non-didactic description of what they are that makes them sound as delicious as they are in real life!

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