Moving to the farm her family inherited from Great-Uncle Jim, Sophie Brown, 12, discovers a flyer from a local poultry purveyor promoting its “unusual chickens” and quickly discovers it’s not false advertising.
Sophie’s story unfolds through her correspondence with the poultry people and her letters to Great-Uncle Jim and her beloved abuelita (both deceased but very much alive to Sophie). While Dad’s white, brown-skinned, U.S.-born Sophie and her freelance-writer mother are frequently assumed to be migrant farmworkers, legal or otherwise, but they take it in stride. (The town of Gravenstein’s fairly diverse, but some residents need remedial multicultural ed.) The chickens Sophie acquires are plenty diverse themselves, from Henrietta, who lays glass eggs, to Chameleon, with her nifty gift for turning invisible when predators are near. The chickens’ superpowers aren’t a secret. Most who are in the know are trustworthy with one big exception: a wannabe poultry thief. Genuinely informative, entertaining chicken-raising tips are offered (and may prompt readers to lobby parents for chickens of their own). Matching the text in tone and substance, the illustrations honor the tale’s serious chicken-raising elements, portraying breeds in anatomically correct detail, while perfectly capturing that intense, slightly demented demeanor chickens, unusual and otherwise, are known for.
A delightful protagonist, interesting fowl of various breeds and a cast of appealing second-string characters make this a top pick for young readers, poultry fanciers or not. (Fantasy. 8-12)