Can a Black Rosecomb Bantam rooster be the answer to a fifteen year old girl’s problems? Yes, if his name is Charles Dickens and he wins first place at the Prosper County Fair. The rooster’s blue ribbon will provide Austin Gray the chance to become reigning “Sweetheart” of the Future Farmers of America and achieve her dream of riding in the annual Christmas parade.
Austin Gray has lots of things to deal with in her life—a bully who won’t leave her alone, an overprotective mother who can’t move past losing her husband, and a new relationship with a cowboy named Josh Whatley that feels a little bit like love. Then add to the mix Austin’s desire to be somebody, to find her place in the small town community that knows more about her than she does herself.
Some of the other characters who surround and support Austin include a best friend who battles racial prejudice, a mysterious backwater man who turns out to be a guardian angel and an evangelical Elvis impersonator wise beyond his years. And then there is Austin’s mother who articulates the theme of the book: “Be your own icon.”
I enjoyed this debut novel in the same way I enjoy the work of author Joan Bauer. Jill Alexander’s book touched my heart, made me laugh and gave me a character to cheer for. And the book is a slice of small town rural America that is not frequently depicted in books for young readers.
—Constance Van Hoven, children’s book author and teller of tall tales
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