Charming, thoughtful, and clever.

An almost-13-year-old expands her poultry-farming operation in this sequel to Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (2015).

Sophie Brown has just received two new unusual chickens to add to her flock, but that’s not all—she’s about to receive fertile eggs, so she is putting together an incubator and learning all she can about how to nurture chicken eggs and get them ready to hatch. Resourceful and thoughtful, Sophie documents her entire process—emailing with Hortensia, a chicken vendor; taking detailed notes about her unusual (they casually teleport objects or become invisible) hens; and writing letters to deceased but beloved adults Agnes, Great-Uncle Jim, and Abuelita. School is about to start, and Sophie’s excited that her cousin Lupe will be coming to stay as she attends college nearby, but nothing can compare to the hatching of new chicks. Sophie’s lower socio-economic status and identity as a brown-skinned, biracial Xicana figure into the plot heavily without reeking of tokenism. (Sophie’s mom is Mexican-American; her dad is white.) Readers unfamiliar with the first book should feel caught up after a few dozen pages of this epistolary novel. Jones has married the trappings of traditional magical realism—small towns, quirky people, almost-normal animals—with the angst of being the out-of-place kid in middle school, and it’s no gimmick: just good worldbuilding and storytelling. Kath’s humorous spot art is a delightful complement.

Charming, thoughtful, and clever. (Magical realism. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6591-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018



Entrancing and uplifting.

A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019


Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

Close Quickview