On the Farm

David Elliott, Author, Holly Meade, Illustrator , illus. by Holly Meade. Candlewick $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-3322-6

Like the vibrant rooster on this oversize book's jacket, Meade's (Hush! A Thai Lullaby ) colored woodcut prints are so bold they seem to crow at the reader. Leaves look bigger than life, and each chicken scratch in the barnyard dust leaves a strong, black line. Elliott's (And Here's to You!) short, simple poems often seem overwhelmed by the pictures, which feature animals that stare intently at the reader, as if their morning activities were being interrupted by someone with a camera. Taking a roster of the farm residents, the poems include the occasional striking image (the pig has a tail “as coy as a ringlet”), and more frequently comment on the animals' obvious characteristics (the cow “makes milk/ standing/ grazing./ Abra-/ cada-/ bra!/ She's/ utterly/ amazing!”). As brief as they are, often just a sentence or two, the poems talk to both adults and preschoolers. A comment about the turtle's “fossil head” will be of less interest to children than the idea that “in [the turtle's] house,/ it's always night.” While some illustrations are stiff and anthropomorphic, overall this old-fashioned farm stands in for an idyllic existence, a time and place where the bees “tell their story,/ sweet and old.” Ages 3-5. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
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