cover image Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Kelly Jones, illus. by Katie Kath. Knopf, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-75552-8

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)