cover image Raising Yoder's Barn

Raising Yoder's Barn

Jane Yolen, Bernie Fuchs. Little Brown and Company, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-96887-4

Work of the hands, faith and community spirit are constants that eight-year-old Matthew has always known growing up on a Pennsylvania Amish farm. These things make all the difference when lightning burns his family's barn to the ground. When a barn-raising is organized, he despairs of being thought too young to help despite his father's praise for his work skills; eventually, the organizer, Samuel Stulzfoot, gives Matthew a special and important task. Yolen (The Girl in the Golden Bower) uses atmospheric metaphors--blisters are compared to ""the barley in Mama's soup"" and the barn grows ""like a giant flower in the field."" Her vision of the Amish seems rose-colored--not even the fire disturbs the underlying calm--but both the fire and the one-day barn-raising carry palpable excitement. In Fuchs's (Ragtime Tumpie) similarly idealized oil paintings, the Amish characters, clad in their traditional garb, move against radiant, broadly brushed pastoral settings. The new barn glows golden in the light of the new moon; the jars of preserves on the kitchen counter gleam as the sun pours in. The mood, never broken, is the real star of the book. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)