cover image Down by the Barn

Down by the Barn

Will Hillenbrand. Amazon/Two Lions, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4778-4731-2

Fifteen years after his Down by the Station, Hillenbrand offers a cheerful companion book that transplants the familiar nursery rhyme to a rural setting. There’s still a train of sorts involved—it’s a tractor piloted by a farmer dog with a pair of wagons serving as train cars. A scarecrow with a wide smile is the first to board, and he’s quickly followed by various baby animals who clamber aboard, adding cumulative sound effects to the end of each verse (“Puff, Puff,/ click, clank,/ moo, moo,/ OFF WE GO!”). The one-syllable animal names that are swapped in for the word “station” aren’t quite as melodious to sing aloud (“Down by the goats/ early in the morning”), but Hillenbrand’s smudgy-edged mixed-media artwork offers plenty of diversions, including a tense moment when a fox pounces at a yellow chick that has wandered off. The fox situation is handled with a well-aimed bucket to the head, and the story ends on a peaceful note, with the scarecrow leading story time for a group of young humans and animals. Ages 3–5. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (May)