cover image The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer

The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer

Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4428-1

“There is a silence inside of everything.” The almost prayerful early lines of this reverent episodic narrative by the married collaborators (The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine) confer unexpected dignity on its protagonists: a mule, a milk cow, and a miniature horse, all worrying together under a starry night sky. Noting that “the sun is late... And so is the farmer,” they reason that the farmer is unlikely to appear with breakfast if the sun doesn’t rise. Erin Stead conveys their anxious expressions with unfailing sweetness against inky blue backgrounds. When they approach the farm’s barn owl, it sends them on a quest “beyond the field full of sheep... all the way to the edge of the world.... Bring Rooster along—Rooster will know what to do.” The three animals strike out: “We will have to be braver than we ever thought possible,” writes Philip Stead. As the sky lightens, though, readers realize that the journey may not be as challenging—or necessary—as the animals had feared, building to a happy if precipitous ending. It’s a gently comic telling that appreciates creatures’ gentle ways and offers a quiet reminder about perceptions’ ability to mislead. Ages 4–8. Agent (for author and illustrator): Emily van Beek, Folio Literary. (Nov.)