Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
by Kelly Jones
Cover Artist: Katie Kath
Review by Gayle Surrette
Knopf Books for Young Readers Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780385755528
Date: 12 May 2015 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
When I first started to read this book, I didn't really think there was going to be a fantasy element to it -- but decided it would be up to the reader to decide just how unusual these chickens really are.
Sophie Brown has had to move away from all her friends. Her father lost his job. Her mother is a magazine article writer and can work anywhere. Since her parents inherited the farm of her father's Great Uncle Jim Brown, it seemed like a good time to change locations. The problem is that her father knows nothing about farming.
Sophie is trying to make the best of it, even though she doesn't know anyone and there's no where to go and nothing to do. She decides to try to organize some of the junk that had collected all over the farm and barn. In the process she finds a chicken, which she names Henrietta. She's convinced Henrietta can use the force to move things with her mind. She also finds an old catalog from a chicken company and decides to write to them and gets an answer from someone named Agnes.
Over the course of the book, Sophie finds more unusual chickens that used to belong to Jim Brown. Since her parents are very busy working and/or trying to find work and learn about farming, she begins to write about her experiences in letters to Agnes, her dead grandmother, and to her father's Great Uncle Jim. These letters are the bulk of the story and are by turns funny, witty, serious, and honest. Of course, the only answers she gets back are from Agnes.
Interspersed is a lot of information about chickens and how to take care of them and raise them. Also, details on her efforts to protect the chickens from someone who is trying to steal them.
Sophie a a great character -- open, honest, and real enough to step off the page. The use of letters and the mail order course on how to raise chickens, along with drawings make this entertaining and educational -- provided you're interested in chickens.
I'll leave it up to the reader to decide if these chickens are truly unusual or if their talents are just misunderstood or misinterpreted by Sophie.