cover image Prairie Days

Prairie Days

Patricia MacLachlan, illus. by Micha Archer. S&S/McElderry, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-4191-0

Elaborate sun-filled spreads by Archer (Daniel’s Good Day) illuminate Newbery Medalist MacLachlan’s farm-life memories in this dazzling picture book. The writer’s childhood recollections unspool informally, fondly, as if being recalled for family members: “There were small towns with names we loved—/ Sunrise, Rattlesnake, Chugwater, and Spotted Horse.” She knits simple words into lines of beauty: “Where I was born, the earth smelled of cattle and bluegrass and hyssop.” Archer’s hypnotic images show the prairie stretching out like an ocean, its hues and substance changing and fading toward the horizon. In work of remarkable intricacy, dozens of strips of paper painted in yellows, blues, and greens are cut fine and laid out to represent the long, even furrows of farm fields; lace curtains undulate in a breeze. MacLachlan’s memories unfold over one long day, beginning with an orange sun rising and ending with a bed, “where we read under quilts,” and a yellow summer moon. Together, words and pictures create a sense of endless space and ample time. Childhoods as free as this one are not as common as they once were; borrowing MacLachlan’s is the next best thing. Ages 4–8. [em](May) [/em]