cover image Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary

Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary

Maya Gottfried, , illus. by Robert Rahway Zakanitch . Knopf, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-86118-5

The inhabitants of a real-life refuge for abused farm animals inspired this collection of poems and watercolor portraits. Zakanitch (who collaborated with Gottfried on Good Dog and Last Night I Dreamed a Circus ) captures his subjects in a variety of moods and modes. There are almost formal poses (the florid, impressionistic poultry are noteworthy), more impressionistic works (turkeys distilled to red wattles and reverse-silhouetted bodies against a green field); and casual, occasionally naïf-styled sketches, complete with sound effects like “oink” and “cluck.” It’s aesthetically intriguing and fun—readers are never quite sure what awaits on the next page. Gottfried fares less well: her conceit is that the free verse is written by the animals themselves, as in this poem by a turkey named Whisper: “See our magnificent dance in the grass./ We are so graceful, like a ballet class.” But aside from some familiar animal personality tropes (a sheep is imperious, chicks are giddy, rabbits are skittish), there’s little in the verse that conveys a unique voice or experience. Instead, the poems feel like they’re all cut from the same dreamy, earnest cloth. Ages 5–8. (Feb.)