Prairie Days by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Micha Archer (9781442441910)
The master of prairie-based books offers this picture book glimpse of life on the prairie. It is a land of huge skies that change color at dawn. It smells of “cattle and bluegrass and hyssop” with wild roses too. There are small towns with fascinating names, filling stations with cold drinks, and farm horses to ride. There are all sorts of prairie birds and creatures. There are farm dogs to cuddle and admire, rides on grain carts heading to the mill. There are trips to town and in the summer, swimming in the pond. Games at dusk and into the dark until you are called in to bed. As the huge sky changes colors once again.
Newbery medalist MacLachlan’s text captures the beauty of growing up on a working farm in the prairie states. Through a series of small moments, she shows the incredible beauty of the land and sky. She also shows how these small moments string together to form a day, a summer, a life. It is a quiet picture book, with glimpses of wildlife and time spent on horseback or snoozing on a porch.
Archer’s illustrations are deep and beautiful. They are done in collage with acrylics and inks combined with handmade papers. They fill the pages with the textures of grasses, the epic sight of sunrise and sunset, the golds and greens of summer, and the deep blues of the sky.
So many of us will recognize our own childhoods here on the page, whether we grew up on the prairie or in another sort of farming community. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Margaret K. McElderry Books.
The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl (9781984893369)
Leo lived with his father in a blue house that they loved. The paint may have been peeling, there may have been leaks, and it might shake when the wind blew, but the house was theirs. It was cold in the winter, but Leo and his dad just baked pies to keep the kitchen warm and had dance parties in their hats and scarves. The house had a big garden and a yard where Leo loved to spend all day playing. But their neighborhood was changing, and eventually it was their house that needed to be knocked down. They got evicted by their landlord and had to move. Leo was very angry, and his father let him express it with angry music but they still needed to pack. After painting their farewell on the walls, they left and moved into a white house, a house that didn’t feel at all like home. But perhaps they could make it feel better after all.
There is so much to love about this picture book with its look at the cost of new construction on a neighborhood and a family. It is also a book that celebrates this small family of a dad and son and the way they deal with forced changes in their lives. The focus here is on quality of life rather than wealth, on home rather than real estate, on love rather than land. The story shares these ideals of simple living without preaching, never pushing them, just showing how a life focused on love looks.
Wahl’s art is marvelous. The end pages of the book show the full neighborhood that this little family lives in. Then readers get to see their home with its rambling garden, laundry on the line, trampoline and rather ramshackle house. It’s a home filled with delights of home-baked pies, rock music, dancing and togetherness. The long-haired little boy and his father are marvelously modern with an engaging nod towards simpler times throughout the images.
Richly illustrated, this picture book focuses on love and simple joys. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Knopf.