Tag: farms

Moo by Sharon Creech

moo-by-sharon-creech

Moo by Sharon Creech (InfoSoup)

Reena and her little brother, Luke, move to the Maine countryside with their parents. At first they spend their summer riding their bikes around the area, loving the freedom that comes with it. But then their parents “volunteer” both of them to help out on a neighbor’s farm. Mrs. Falala is unusual to say the least. She has all sorts of animals on the farm, including a pig, a cat and a snake, but the one that she needs Reena’s help with most is Zora, a grumpy cow. Slowly, Reena gains Zora’s trust and starts to understand what she needs to be happier. Just as slowly, Luke begins to bond with Mrs. Falala as he works on his drawings alongside her. As these new friendships emerge, new opportunities arise to form connections, learn from one another, and delight in the antics of one ornery cow.

Creech uses a glorious blend of prose and poetry in this novel. The poetry takes concrete form at times but usually is free verse and flows in the way summer days do. The prose reads like poetry at times, blending the two formats even more closely together. The rural Maine setting comes alive in the book, the children experiencing it with great delight that readers will share. Creech captures the emotions of a major move and the wonders and fears of being from the city and landing firmly in farm country.

This is a book with plenty of large characters. Mrs. Falala is a wonderful character, isolated and lonely, she is by turns prickly and warm, a conundrum that also makes perfect sense. From her use of music to express emotion to her willingness to learn to draw, she is an older character with plenty to still learn and even more to share. Then there is Zora, the cow, a creature with more than enough attitude and chutzpah to carry the novel. She is very much an animal version of her owner, though she tends to use hooves and head butts to show her feelings.

A rich narrative and plenty of amazing characters, this novel in prose and verse enchants as it demonstrates the importance of connections and community. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

 

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virjan (InfoSoup)

This second book in the A Pig in a Wig series keeps up the zany silliness of the first even though it’s a bedtime story. Pig is getting ready for bed still in her wig, brushing her teeth and combing her hair. She’s all settled into bed with her teddy bear when other animals start showing up and making noise. They all climb into the bed with Pig, but soon it is too much to take and Pig shushes them all and sends them back to the barn. Soon all is silent again until the owl outside Pig’s window starts to hoot. Where will she find a quiet place to sleep?

Just as with the first book, this book is written in a jaunty and bouncy rhyme that sets a brisk pace. Despite the silliness and the rhyme though, the book does slow down at the end in a natural way, becoming downright dozy by the end. The illustrations are simple and funny, particularly when all of the animals are piled high on the bed.

A great addition to beginning reader collections, this book had just the right mix of silly and sleepy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager (InfoSoup)

Carol is missing out on what all of her friends are doing this summer, because she has to head out with her family to the New Mexico desert and move her grandfather off of his farm and into a home for people with dementia. Carol has never really met her Grandpa Serge and tries to avoid him at first because he is so prickly and all he will talk about is a wild story about bees returning to the desert. As the summer goes ever so slowly by, Carol connects with Serge and discovers his ability to weave a great story. It’s a story that is about her grandparents, about a magical tree that granted everlasting life and about bees too. Carol begins to understand her grandfather’s connection to the dried out land and the small home just as the summer ends and they are forced to leave it behind but the story has not reached its end yet.

This magical realism book is enticingly radiant. It shimmers with desert heat, itches with dust and dirt, aches with the loss of loved ones, and dances with the voice of a great storyteller. The writing is lush and lovely with distinct tone differences between Grandpa Serge’s stories and the prose of the novel. Even that prose though is written with such poetry:

I want to tell her how Serge’s eyes glow, how they are cat’s eyes, wide as a newborn’s, ringed like an ancient tree trunk.

A large theme of the novel is connection to one’s heritage and roots. In this book about a magical tree, those roots have many meanings. Carol is urged to connect more with her Hispanic heritage and also to the land itself. She does over the course of the novel in a believable and organic way that really works well. This book is about those slow changes, about becoming yourself and honoring who you are and where you come from.

Beautiful and haunting, this novel deserves a wide audience and plenty of buzz. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

 

 

The House that Zack Built by Alison Murray

The House that Zack Built by Alison Murray

The House that Zack Built by Alison Murray (InfoSoup)

Zack built a house out of blocks outside under a tree. A fly buzzed by, the cat stalked the fly, then got more interested in the cream up high on a shelf. The dog was asleep when down fell the cream, knocked over by the cat who was still looking to catch that fly. The lambs in the field are calm and quiet, then the dog runs through still covered in cream and the sheep dash out of the field. Then Zack looks around, amazed at the mess of the farm. He jumped into action and set it all right. Then they all sat quietly and looked at the incredible house that Zack had built.

This British import is a cumulative tale that doesn’t solely stick to the traditional structure of building and building onto the length of the sentence with each new addition. Instead here it is the story itself that is the focus and the cumulative structure is used when it works and then merrily abandoned to make the storyline work better and to also make the book much more enjoyable to read. The result is a cumulative tale that will not leave you breathless or with a spinning head when shared aloud.

Murray’s art is simple and friendly. The illustrations will work well for a crowd since they are not filled with small details. Children will enjoy the cat in particular as it causes almost all of the problems that emerge.

There is a real satisfaction in this story of watching chaos happen and then having it set to rights. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

My Dog’s a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari

My Dogs a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari

My Dog’s a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari and Anne Wilsdorf (InfoSoup)

Lula Mae really wants a puppy, but her mother tells her that times are hard and she will just have to make do. So Lula Mae takes a look around and decides that maybe a chicken could be a good dog. She finds the most likely chicken, one that is confident, and grabs it. She names the “dog” Pookie and puts a hair ribbon on its head. Her mother insists that whatever Lula Mae calls it, she’s not to bring it into the house. Soon Pookie is starting to act like a dog. She shepherds the other chickens around. She acts like a guard dog when Cousin Tater threatens Lula Mae and the baby with a garter snake. Pookie even manages to perform a search and rescue when Baby Berry goes missing.

This fanciful picture book is brimming with down home warmth. The book’s premise is wonderfully quirky, the substitution of a chicken for a dog. Readers will expect it to go very badly, but this book takes a more positive spin. Even as Pookie starts to act like a dog, she is still clearly a chicken reacting the way a chicken would in that situation. The humans interpret it differently, adding to the fun of the entire story.

Wilsdorf’s illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. They are filled with bright colors and show a vibrant rural lifestyle filled with chickens, woodpiles, and crops. Some of the illustrations show the paths of people (and chickens) running around and convey the panic of trying to find Baby Berry. Sharp-eyed children will spot him by following Pookie’s path.

Funny and entirely individual, this picture book is about making do and following your own heart. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.

Review: Job Wanted by Teresa Bateman

Job Wanted by Teresa Bateman

Job Wanted by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Chris Sheban

When an old farm dog walks up to a farm looking for work, the farmer refuses. He sees dogs as a waste of food since they don’t give anything back like chickens or cows do. The dog then offers to be a cow instead of a dog. He gets all of the cows into the barn and lined up ready for milking before the farmer gets there, but the farmer isn’t interested in this dog-cow. The next thing the dog tries is to be a horse. He couldn’t fit in the harness for the plow, but he could run ahead of the horse with treats to get the horse to plow faster. Still, the farmer was not interested in hiring the dog. The dog next tries to be a chicken and tidies up the chicken coop before settling down in a nest of hay himself. It’s there that he finally proves the value of a dog on a farm to the reluctant farmer.

Bateman nicely incorporates a rhythm and repetition into her story. The pattern of the conversation between the dog and the farmer carries through the entire book, creating a framework that functions very nicely. On each job, the dog manages to be useful in his own way, something that is a nice surprise in the book rather than him trying to give milk or eggs himself. One immediately roots for the success of this hard-working dog.

Sheban’s illustrations are done in watercolor, graphite, and colored pencil. The result is a picture book that glows with sunlight. There is a wonderful softness to the illustrations, gauzy light that plays across the farm and the characters.

A shining picture book about resilience and being yourself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Holiday House.