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Chicken Boy

by Frances O'Roark Dowell


Chicken Boy
     by Dowell, Frances O'Roark

Publishers Weekly :

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As sensitively wrought if not quite as engrossing as Dowell's Dovey Coe, this slice-of-life novel shows the hurt, pride and hidden potential of a boy from a dysfunctional family. When Toby McCauley enters seventh grade, everyone expects him to be as much a troublemaker as his older siblings and as "crazy" as his grandmother, who gets arrested after driving up the sidewalk to drop Toby off at junior high for his first day of school. Upholding McCauley tradition, Toby does play the role of a rebel at first, peeving Coach Kelly by refusing to change his clothes for P.E. and earning himself a suspension for getting into a fight. It isn't until he finds a friend in classmate Henry, an aspiring chicken farmer, that Toby begins to turn things around. Using economical prose, colorfully strewn with rural dialect, the author traces how Toby, previously a loner, learns to trust people outside the McCauley clan as he helps Henry and his younger brother raise chickens. If Toby doesn't share Henry's passion for hens (at least at first), he does appreciate his friend's stable home life and gentle encouragement to embrace rather than resist opportunities to excel. Once again displaying a keen ear for dialogue and a skill for painting pictures with words, the author creates a story of friendship and family conflict that is both heart-wrenching and heartwarming. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Chicken Boy
     by Dowell, Frances O'Roark

School Library Journal :

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Starred Review. Gr 4-7 –In Raleigh, NC, seventh-grader Tobin McCauley has let life pass him by since his mother died five years earlier, but when a new student at school befriends him, he begins to look at the world with fresh eyes. Tobin has been the odd kid out for so long that when Henry Otis engages him in conversation and invites him over, the boy wonders what to make of it all. While Tobin's father is working or out on weekends, he and his older siblings scrounge for cereal to eat while watching television and long for the mother they vaguely remember. “When you learn about chickens, you will learn about life” is good advice from Henry and the basis for this story. Tobin learns just where he fits in as a school project to raise chickens develops into more than just a way to get extra credit. He describes his emotions, saying, “I'd been feeling kind of funny in general, like a snake shedding its skin and finding out it was a whole different animal underneath.” Tobin's life will resonate with many young people who are struggling to see just where they fit in. His grandmother and her sky blue Toyota truck add humorous relief to such weighty subjects as child custody and the death of a parent. This is a refreshingly well-written encounter with richly developed and well-defined characters whom readers won't soon forget.–Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

distributed by Syndetics Solutions, LLC.:
Chicken Boy
     by Dowell, Frances O'Roark

BookList :

From BookList, May 15, 2005, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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*Starred Review*

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Gr. 4-7. Since Tobin McCauley's mom died of cancer, his family has fallen apart. Nobody talks about grief at home, a dirty “old brick shoe box” off a highway near Raleigh, North Carolina, where Tobin lives with his dad and his older, delinquent siblings. Granny is sometimes kind to Tobin, but she's always feuding with Dad. Then in seventh grade, Tobin meets Henry, who helps him raise chickens and supports him so he can stand up for himself. The friend as savior character is too good to be true, as are the therapy sessions where Tobin's family finally talks. What will grab readers are Tobin's wry, sad, immediate voice as he discovers how to nurture chickens, and Dowell's depiction of adults, from Tobin's kind decent teacher to his flawed granny and dad, both of whom let Tobin down. There is no glib resolution, here. But the strong narration and the child's struggle with forgiveness make for poignant, aching drama.
HazelRochman.

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