Charming, thoughtful, and clever.

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ARE YOU READY TO HATCH AN UNUSUAL CHICKEN?

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. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story.

A HOME FOR GODDESSES AND DOGS

After her mother succumbs to heart disease, 13-year-old Lydia goes to live with her mother’s older sister, Aunt Brat, and her wife, Eileen, in their small Connecticut town.

Almost immediately the loving couple adopts a large rescue dog that becomes mostly Lydia’s responsibility. The unfortunate animal isn’t even housebroken, and Lydia’s most decidedly not a dog person, so caring for Guffer is challenging. So is trying to be cordial—but not too friendly—with her 12 eighth grade classmates. Previously home-schooled, Lydia’s not quite ready for the friend thing. Secrets, like who could have been responsible for maiming two baby goats or why Brat is secretly caring for them at a neighbor’s farm, complicate life. Background plotlines (an angry neighbor who hates Guffer, Lydia’s absent father, and the cause of Guffer’s anxieties) all gradually evolve. Similarly, Lydia slowly learns to cope with her grief, sometimes aided by spending time with “the goddesses”—artistic collages of strong women that she and her mother crafted. Gentle, fully fleshed characters (most seemingly white) are lovingly drawn in this long tale of healing, but the pacing is sometimes frustratingly slow. Although she’s clearly intelligent, Lydia’s first-person narrative often seems more like the voice of an adult than a young teen. In spite of these minor flaws, her poignant tale is engaging and uplifting.

An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story. (Fiction.10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-279678-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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