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Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

(Unusual Chickens #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,796 ratings  ·  686 reviews
Fans of Polly Horvath or Roald Dahl will love this quirky story of a determined girl, and some extraordinary chickens.
Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen ca
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 12th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
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Anna I have not but I don't think it would be the best choice for a read-aloud. It relies on a lot of illustrations and other visuals that would be too har…moreI have not but I don't think it would be the best choice for a read-aloud. It relies on a lot of illustrations and other visuals that would be too hard to express in a read-aloud setting.(less)
Cass Extraordinary ones! They have super powers! Varieties include a Bantam White Leghorn, Barred Plymouth Rock, Bantam Black Frizzle Cochin, Buff Orpingto…moreExtraordinary ones! They have super powers! Varieties include a Bantam White Leghorn, Barred Plymouth Rock, Bantam Black Frizzle Cochin, Buff Orpington, and Speckled Sussex. The story takes place in California.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Start your review of Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (Unusual Chickens #1)
The epistolary novel has a long and storied history. At least when it comes to books written for adults. So too does it exist in novels for children, but in my experience you are far more likely to find epistolary picture books than anything over 32 pages in length. That doesn’t stop teachers, of course. As a children’s librarian I often see the kiddos come in with the assignment to read an epistolary novel and lord love a duck if you can remember one on the spot. I love hard reference questions ...more
Lois Bujold
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: No clue. _I_ liked it.
Recommended to Lois by: found cross-referenced on Goodreads from the last kids' book I read
What a nice book. Apparently, if I want to read books that aren't wall-to-wall horror-fests, I need to branch out in my genres.

A 12-year-old girl (what is it with 12-year-old protags in this genre?) moves with her family from LA when they inherit her great-uncle's somewhat run-down rural California farm, which I would think would be like paradise for a kid. Along with the farm come some decidedly unusual chickens, which Sophie takes as her own. Low-key hijinks ensue. One also learns some things
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The back of UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER recommends the book to fans of Roald Dahl, which is a good call. It doesn't have his particularly wicked humor or sense of real menace, but it does have his matter-of-fact magic and a young protagonist who succeeds through a mixture of cleverness and goodness. It also has ink illustrations by Katie Kath that will remind readers of Quentin Blake.

Sophie Brown and her parents move to a farm in a small town that they inherited from Soph
Monica Edinger
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My blog review:

Kelly Jones' terrific Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer is described by its publisher as quirky a word that, for me, doesn't really get across the warm-heartedness of this eccentric epistolary story. Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown has, along with her parents,  just moved from LA to a seemingly animal-free farm they have inherited from her Great-Uncle Jim. The lonely Sophie, seeing a flyer for the Redwood Farm Supply company in the barn and being unable to find them
Review copy: ARC from publisher

The title struck me as amusing before I even got to the text. The look in the top chicken's eye's on the cover also cracks me up. There was no way that I could ignore this book and I'm so glad I didn't. Sophie and her adventures had me smiling and giggling over and over even when dealing with serious things. Her first letter to her grandmother is a good example. Her abuela died recently and Sophie writes, "I know you're dead, and I don't believe in zombies, so you
Jul 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: kids-stuff
There are many things to love about this book, and I regularly repeated them to myself so that I would finish it. Excellent voice in Sophie. Unique storytelling approach in the mostly one way epistolary novel. I loved the telling of the being the new person, the different, in such a different and gentle way. She is having to learn to be in the county, not the other way around. I enjoyed the fact that her parents are happy and supportive but out of the way, that her mother is apparently supportin ...more
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
man I loved this!! So sweet and funny.

Also I loved how it covertly shows microaggressions and the importance of representation--Sophie is half white, half Latina and she notes how the librarian is super nice to her because she originally assumed that Sophie was the daughter of a farm laborer, rather than the daughter of the family who inherited the farm; Sophie is super excited when she meets a Filipina journalist who speaks's all organic to the story but it's something that could
Ms. Yingling
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
E ARC from

Sophie and her parents move to her to her great uncles farm from Los Angeles when her father loses his job and her uncle dies. It's a difficult move; Sophie misses her abuela, who has passed away, as well as her extended family, and isn't too wild about the run down farm. She finds an address for a nearby company that sells "unusual chickens" and writes away for a catalog. She also finds an unusual chicken, whom she names Henrietta, who may or may not have the power to mo
I think this might be a contender for my favorite book read in 2016. I know there's a ways to go in the year, but this book was just SO GREAT. It gets a five because it's so unique and awesome and fun, at the same time as being thoughtful and diverse and a great discussion book. It's rare to find a book that I feel like is as entertaining for a grownup audience as it would be for kids, and I think this is one of those books. Here's why it's awesome:

1. The entire book is written in epistolary sty
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
LOVE this book.

The drawings, the story - you'll start and end this book with a giant smile on your face.
Engaging, empowering, and truly entertaining, this is the kind of light but satisfying story you could press into the hands of any 4th or 5th grader with confidence they'd come away happy. I didn't want this one to end!

Plot points of note: Sophie's mom is Mexican-American and her dad is Caucasian. She is one of the very few (to use her words) "brown people" in the new rural town to which they've moved. People frequently look at her with confusion, having known her great uncle who was (like her f
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this with my homeschoolers' book club at the library. I enjoyed the sweetness of the story and the epistolary style is always a nice change, but like one of the kids in my book group said - the plot was kind of "eh". There wasn't a lot of action or much of an arc. I also never felt really clear on the superpowers of the chickens and what they were for. Sometimes I felt like I missed something in my reading - which believe me, when you are chugging down a juvenile fiction book on your lunc ...more
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lindsay by: Karen
For the couple days I was carrying this around reading it, I just wanted to throw it in people's faces, saying, "Look at this grumpy chicken!! She can open latches and lay glass eggs!!! She's so grumpy!!!!! Ahhhhh!!!!!"

Oh yes. I loved this.
Barb Middleton
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I admire authors that can pull off well-written epistolary novels. To find the right balance between epistle and narrative without losing the reader is tricky to say the least. Too many internal thoughts by the character and you threaten to bore the reader. Too many flashbacks and you lose the immediacy of the action. Too few points of view and you wonder what motivates the other characters. If I were a writer I would think the chances of writing a boring, passive story would skyrocket with this ...more
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I can't remember the last time I saw Daniel Pinkwater blurb a book. Of course, this one is not only about chickens (a special interest for Pinkwater) - it even name checks Pinkwater and his 1977 classic, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. That has to be flattering. Still, Pinkwater is such a grouchy old coot that I have to believe he wouldn't praise a book unless he meant it. Of Unusual Chickens, he wrote, "Someone has finally written a real honest-to-goodness novel with chickens! This news will exc ...more
A great epistolary story, featuring a clever colored young girl (writing to her dead grandmother) and chickens with super powers!
"I know you're dead, and I don't believe in zombies, so you don't need to write back or anything"

Sophie's family has money problems because her father is unemployed. They inherited a farm and so moved near a small town. It's complicated for all of them and Sophie is trying to adjust to her new life. Her main motivation is to convince her parents to rise farm animals, b
Gail Nall
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, middle-grade, 15ers
Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse....

And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her
Aarene Storms
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sophie is lonely. Her family left the city when Sophie's dad lost his job, and now they live in an isolated and junk-filled farmhouse recently inherited from Sophie's Great-Uncle Jim. Alone in a new place, Sophie begins writing letters to her dead grandmother and great-uncle, detailing her new adventures, describing the people in the new community, and sharing her deepest wish: Sophie wants chickens.

Soon enough, chickens come to Sophie. But these are not ordinary chickens! The white hen lays gla
This is a sweet middle-school book, for people who love chickens, and for those who are chicken curious.

This is the tale of a youngster who inherits her great uncles chickens, only she doesn't know her great uncle has chickens. And each chicken has a super power, so not only does she have to learn to take care of chickens in general, she has to learn to take care of these special, unusual chickens.

It has light humor, information for those who have never had a chicken (so you can learn about that
Sharon Lawler
I am always on the prowl for humorous storylines intended for the middle grade reader, and "Unusual Chickens" is perfect. The author and illustrator created a character and plot driven book that is not only funny but well illustrated with line drawings--the chickens exude serious attitude! This is a hard combination to pull off, but it is totally successful. Letters to a dead grandmother and uncle, a recipes for migas, trips to the library for information on chickens, and a librarian who stereot ...more
Judi Paradis
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is just a wonderful book. The entire book consists of letters a girl named Sophie writes to various people, most of whom are dead. After a few letters, you realize that her Dad has lost his job and also inherited his uncle Jim's grape and chicken farm. Sophie gradually discovers the chickens are dispersed around the farm, and as she gathers them and figures out how to care for them, we also catch on that there is odd poultry magic at work here. The story includes an evil 4H chicken fanatic ...more
Nov 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: youth-fiction
I wanted to like this better than I did. I adored Sophie as a character; I thought the chickens were all very interesting, the supporting cast was great, and the illustrations were lovely.

I just didn't care for the supernatural elements that were brought in; I don't think the shape-changing hawk or the invisible chicken or the typing hens worked as plot devices, and I found them distracting. The story could have been told just as well without them.

And the chicken thief was just -- pathetic.
This is a charming story about magical chickens with a funny, enjoyable protagonist. I think kids who love animals would find a lot to like here. Also, it made me want to make migas the next time I have leftover tortillas!
Dec 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 11-12s-ir-books
I thought the ending was completely unrealistic and made no sense. There was no climax, just lots of small things happening.
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoy epistolary novels and Unusual Chickens For The Exceptional Poultry Farmer is no exception!
Sophie Brown is a wonderful main character with a realistic mother and father who are dealing with realistic challenges in their lives (including money problems, dad has lost his job and is struggling to find another, and mom is struggling to work/write and meet her deadlines). The family has moved to the dad's deceased Uncle Jim's farm in rural California.
Sophie is the "new kid" whose hometo
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of us meet chickens only in the supermarket aisle, wrapped and ready to eat. Not Samantha Brown, who inherits a lively and talented bunch of birds from her great uncle. Skullduggery and adventure ensue, plus a lot of genuinely interesting info on breeding and characteristics. But the icing on the cake are Katie Kath's pen and ink illustrations - charming, endearing and comic, a perfect match for the text.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s
Dear ten-year-old me:

You don't know it yet, but there is a book out there in the future meant just for you. There is a book that encapsulates exactly how you feel about chickens. It's spunky, and clever, and it has funny illustrations, and showcases great POC and female role-models (I know you don't really care about that yet, but 19-year-old you does), and the chickens are absolutely and purely adorable. It's called Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer and it's about a girl who i
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Light, funny, and full of (magic) chickens. I read this to see if my kid might like it, and he might, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it myself.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Delightful, funny, strange, and extremely curious! Perfect for fans of farms, chickens, super powers, letter-writing, and stories about moving to a new place and finding a new spot to belong.
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Kelly Jones is a former librarian and bookseller and has worked with writers of all ages. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her partner and their chickens, who've shown no signs of magic -- yet.

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