Charming, thoughtful, and clever.

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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A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves.

SCAREDY CAT

Two shelter cats take on a mysterious puss with weird powers who is terrorizing the feline community.

Hardly have timorous (and aptly named) Poop and her sophisticated buddy, Pasha, been brought home by their new “human beans” for a two-week trial than they are accosted by fiery-eyed Scaredy Cat, utterly trashing the kitchen with a click of his claws and, hissing that he’s in charge of the neighborhood, threatening that if they don’t act like proper cats—disdaining ordinary cat food and any summons (they are not dogs, after all), clawing the furniture instead of the scratching post, and showing like “cattitude”—it’ll be back to the shelter for them. Will Poop and Pasha prove to be fraidycats or flee to the cowed clowder of homeless cats hiding from the bully in the nearby woods? Nope, they are made of sterner stuff and resolutely set out to enlist feline allies in a “quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of purrs!” Cast into a gazillion very short chapters related by furry narrators Poop and Pasha, who are helpfully depicted in portrait vignettes by Herzog at each chapter’s head, the ensuing adventures test the defiant kitties’ courage (and, in some cases, attention spans) on the way to a spooky but poignant climax set, appropriately enough as it happens, in a pet graveyard.

A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves. (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49443-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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