“When I first got my library card and wrote Blackbird Farm on the form, she didn’t know I was Dad’s daughter or Jim Brown’s grandniece, and she asked me how long my family was working there. I think she still feels bad about that.” page 76
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath.
Borzoi, Alfred A. Knopf, Random House, New York, 2015.
Speculative/realistic fiction epistolary novel, 216 pages.
AR Level: 5.2 (worth 5.0 points)
Sophie Brown’s family has moved from LA to Gravenstein, California. They’ve traded their apartment for a house and farm filled with all the many things her great-uncle Jim had saved. A farm doesn’t feel right without any animals, but they’ll have to be cheap because money is tight since Dad lost his job and they started relying on Mom’s income as a freelance writer. Then a chicken turns up… a very special chicken.
Amazon kept recommending this book to me since I started buying diverse books. Nothing in the description suggests a PoC is in this book and in the tiny cover preview, Sophie didn’t look dark-skinned. Eventually I ordered a copy – but mistakenly got a hardcover instead of the paperback. Once it arrived I was glad for the mistake, because as soon as he saw this book, our reluctant reader started insisting that I read it to him that night. I don’t turn down his book requests, and they are loving it so far.
This book was a wonderful surprise. The format is unusual (just like those chickens). There also is a paranormal/science fiction aspect that would be a major spoiler to discuss.
“If I had to choose, I have no idea who I would pick between a biological brother I didn’t know and Felix, who I loved so much.” p. 171
Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah.
UK: The Chicken House. US reprint: Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade realistic fiction, illuminated book, 282 pages (including extras).
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 7.0 points)
Dara Palmer’s life is sooo dramatic. She was clearly born to be a star, you can tell by how much TV she watches! It’s life or death that she gets the part of Maria in her school’s production of The Sound of Music, so when she doesn’t, some family members feel that it’s her dark skin keeping her from a part in the musical, not her overacting.
This was entirely an impulse buy. When I opened the book and discovered that it was illuminated (text is complemented/completed by pictures drawn around the margins and in the white space of the book), I was surprised. Another surprise followed as I found out the book was set in Great Britain. This edition is slightly Americanized (5th grade instead of 6th year), but the characters are still very British.
Dara Palmer is a pretty unlikeable character. She literally states this at the end of the first chapter:
“This all happened a while ago now. Let me just say, I was a different person back then. I don’t know if you’re going to like the old me much when you hear what I was like, but I’ve changed. Stuff happened along the way – all kinds of stuff, actually. Nuns and noodles were just the beginning.” ~page 2
Dara is self-absorbed, overly dramatic, and yet somehow magnetic. She comes off as very unsympathetic, until we get to know her a little more. If it wasn’t for the caveat in the first chapter, I might not have made it past the second. And that would have been a shame.