Reviewed December 29, 2015.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 216 pages.
2015 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Children's Fiction
Here's a wonderful light middle grade fantasy novel that's quirky and inventive. It's almost not a fantasy novel at all, dealing with a mixed-race kid in a new neighborhood who's missing her dead grandma and trying to learn how to fit in -- while learning to raise chickens with superpowers.
That's right. Chickens with superpowers, and quirky superpowers at that.
Sophie and her parents have moved to her great-uncle Jim's farm, which her dad inherited. Her Mom's a writer, and her dad's trying to find work, but they're hoping to make something of the farm as well. Uncle Jim had some unusual chickens, but they have scattered after he died. She finds them one at a time and discovers their surprising abilities -- along with someone who wants to have them for her own.
Sophie does find a flyer from Redwood Farm Supply among Uncle Jim's junk advertising "Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer." She writes to the farm for advice and gets very sporadic poorly typed answers back, but accompanied by lessons for being a poultry farmer.
This is a fun and imaginative story. The story is told in the letters Sophie writes to her dead Abuelita, Uncle Jim, and Redwood Farm Supply, as well as frequent illustrations. Sophie has quite a job ahead of her establishing herself as a farmer of Unusual Chickens and thwarting those who would try to stop her. On top of that, she's got a whole summer to figure out how she's going to manage to fit in with the other kids in the neighborhood.