Sophie Brown doesn't need the whistle anymore. Her family has left L.A. and moved out into the country to Great Uncle Jim's farm. This farm doesn't runneth over with animals or fields full of crops. It does have some starter grape vines and sooner than one would expect, it harbors a white chicken, just moments away from being named Henrietta.
Sophie has a summer before her. Her mother is deeply engrossed in writing articles for various publications. Mom has a to-do list and not much comes between her and her commitments. She's supporting the family while Dad is showing up for job interviews and making stabs at mastering bits and pieces of farming. His spirits are not at an all time high.
That leaves Sophie, whose L.A. friends are not writing back, to create her own life on the farm. She explores and begins organizing Farmer Jim's collections of junk and baling wire. Then, one day, a chicken shows up. It's no ordinary chicken and before long, Sophie realizes this chicken has supernatural abilities. Should she mention this to her preoccupied parents?
Sophie is a self-starter. She's confiding her troubles and her loneliness in letters to her deceased Abuelita and her deceased Great-Uncle-Jim. She is getting her education in poultry farming through correspondence with Agnes of Redwood Farm.
Sophie's mother is Latina and she and Sophie and the mailman, Gregory, make up the entire brown population of their town. There is a savvy librarian, a potentially evil chicken farmer who lives nearby, and Sophie's forays into town where she crosses paths with potential new friends.
Sophie needs all of her self-reliance to deal with the problems brought to her by a stream of chickens, the mystery of their unique abilities, the loneliness of being new, and the adversarial chicken farmer who wants to steal Sophie's hens.
Told completely through a series of letters, the instruction manual of how to care for poultry, and a quiz, this is one part funny, one part winsome, and one deep part a view of the world through the eyes of a diverse character in a new vanilla world.
224 pages 978-0385755559 Ages 8-12
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Fans of Polly Horvath or Roald Dahl will love this quirky story of a determined girl, and some extraordinary chickens.
Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse....
And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.
Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens is a quirky, clucky classic in the making.--from the publisher