Book List: Farm Life

As the earth awakens in the spring, children show a natural interest in the growth around them. Even for my own children – growing up on a working farm – that first sprout in the garden boxes still brings delight, and the fascination with new calves and chicks and lambs never grows dim. It’s no surprise that we love stories that reflect who we are, and so here I have assembled some of our favorite picture books depicting farm life.

Farming is always a popular theme with children, and a list of associated picture books could be almost endless. I have chosen these for their portrayal of relationships between people and the land and animals they work. Somewhat nostalgic but unerringly true, these selections capture what many families yearn for: a sense of belonging, and the tender balance of labor and love that is so universally recognizable on a farm.

One Horse Farm, written and illustrated by Dahlov Ipcar

IMG_6864.JPG

This sweet old-fashioned story follows the life of Big Betty the workhorse, who was born on the same day as the farmer’s son. When he is a little boy she is a big strong animal, working hard through all the seasons. But when Johnny is grown into a big strong man, Betty is too old to do the all the chores on the farm and Johnny replaces her with a tractor. Poor Betty doesn’t want to be sold with her old equipment; but she needn’t fear, for Johnny knows her true value. Theirs is a reassuring tale of friendship and respect, with vibrant mid-century illustrations of life around the year on a pre-industrial farm. Preschoolers particularly enjoy finding all the details in these illustrations.

All the Places to Love, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Mike Wimmer

IMG_6865.JPG

This thoughtful story is a tribute to generations working together on an American farm. A little boy takes his place on the family farm on the day he is born, when his grandfather carves his name on a barn rafter. In his early years he tags along with his parents and grandparents, learning from each their favorite haunts on the farm. Constantly aware that he is loved, he makes his own memories and finds his own special spot on the family’s land. When his sister is born and her name carved on the rafter, he knows just what he will need to show her as she grows. Wimmer’s gorgeous paintings create a lush backdrop for MacLachlan’s lilting text as this simple family knits its members together. Just right for a cozy bedtime story with toddlers through the early grades.

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, written and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen

IMG_6866.JPG

This rollicking read is about the animals on a farm. Cats, dogs, horses, chickens, cows, sheep, goats, horses, and a pig named Pearl are introduced… along with all their foibles. Even the local wildlife and creepy-crawlies are included, for the farm wouldn’t be complete without them. It’s a playful, realistic look at the everyday shenanigans in a classic farmyard, where the circle of life keeps turning and each creature has its place. Some of the humor might escape younger listeners and the length might prompt you to read it in shorter segments, but for a little one who loves farm animals this is a must.

A Farm of Her Own, written by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and illustrated by Kathleen Kolb

IMG_6867.JPG

Unfortunately this title is out of print, but if you can find it at your library it is well worth checking out. A girl from a small town is sent to spend the summer with her cousins on a little farm belonging to their aged uncle and aunt. She is shy and knows nothing of farm life, but the gentle hospitality of Uncle Will and Aunt Ada soon brings her out of her shell. The children learn to help the old couple with the chores, and savor both homemade treats and family stories. Sorry to go back home at the end of the summer, the girl never forgets her time on the farm. Years later, long after her aunt and uncle have passed away, she goes back to the farm, and gives to her children what Uncle Will and Aunt Ada gave to her. This precious story of simplicity and kindness will captivate readers up into the middle grades.

The Shepherd Boy, written and illustrated by Kim Lewis

IMG_6868.JPG

Growing up on a sheep farm in northern England, a little boy watches his father working on the farm and longs for the day when he is old enough to help. Finally, after a year of carefully tending his own stuffed lamb just as his parents look after the real ones, he receives a very special gift and he knows that his time has come. The quiet text of this story supports illustrations that are soft but striking. Lewis deftly captures the grand sweep of the countryside, the tiny bleat of a new lamb, the hot stickiness of the sheep shed at shearing time, and the adoration of a lad for his father. A short and simple story with sweetly detailed pictures, this is an endearing choice for toddlers and preschoolers.

Wherever you live, I hope that your family enjoys these glimpses into a way of life that may be very different from your own, but familiar in all the ways that matter.

If you enjoy these reviews of quality children’s books, please sign up below to receive new posts via email.

Review: Oh No, George!

It’s time to choose something for our littlest readers, and this one is just as much fun as the title suggests: Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton.

IMG_5745

George is a dog who is left home alone and promises to behave in the absence of his human friend, Harry. Good-natured George has every intention of keeping this promise, but his resolve is tested when he spies a cake, and then a cat, and then a bed of neatly-planted flowers. As each opportunity presents itself he remembers his pledge to be good, but each time he succumbs to temptation. When Harry returns to a huge mess and a repentant George, he forgives his pet and they go out for a walk together. Buoyed by Harry’s mercy and love, George behaves much better this time… or does he?

The bright abstract paintings in this board book are a bit of a departure from my usual preference for softer and more natural artwork. However they are a great fit for the theme, and are probably a pretty accurate depiction of a toddler’s thought process. Simple shapes and bright colors depict the contrast between the tidiness of George’s surroundings and the chaos he leaves behind. As he pauses to make his decisions the expressions on his face are adorable. Little ones who love dogs (or perhaps have a penchant for trouble themselves) will love George.

The writing in this story is equally fun. It follows a pattern so that we empathize with poor George even as we anticipate his choices, but there is a clever twist at the end that leaves us wondering what we would do if we were George. Indeed, we are George; the themes of understanding expectations, decisions, and consequences – and making mistakes despite the best of intentions – will probably be very familiar to small children. But Harry’s forgiveness is ultimately reassuring, and George makes better choices when given a second chance (or at least we hope so!). With an easy, conversational style and a speedy plot progression, George’s plight will be an easy one to read over and over with toddlers and preschoolers.

If you liked this book you might also enjoy: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton

IMG_5746.JPG