Montreal, Tundra Books: 1982. 32pp, paper, $7.95.
Prince Edward Island-Fiction.
Kindergarten - grade 4 / Ages 5 - 9.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
With Gabriel is Bathsheba and her twin lambs. They are only three
days old and are still learning to follow their mother and nurse. Before
they are allowed to go out with the others, the lambs will have their long
skinny tails docked . . . It is too early in the year for grass so
begin to feed them a mixture of grain sweetened with a special molasses
when they are two weeks old.
This is the fourth printing of a beautiful book about the life of farm
animals. The reader is attracted initially because of the striking
illustrations that depict cows with graceful curves, sheep with soft,
round fluffy wool, Clydesdale horses with handsome muscles, and draft
horses with outstanding dapples. Chester the farmer is part of the story,
but the animals are the protagonists, and Chester is presented as a
The gorgeous pictures in rich earth tones would be enough to
convince many people to buy this book for their children. It was the
winner of the Amelia Frances Howard - Gibbon Award for the best
illustrated children's book in 1983. But the story is another reason, and
make the book an excellent purchase for young children. Using story form,
Climo informs children all about farm life -- the old barns of the early
farmers, the different rooms within the barns,and about the life of the
farm animals. She describes all aspects of a farm animal's life with
great detail, but the information is provided very gently.
The animals are anthropomorphized; they have names and
personalities, but reality is never abandoned. They lead animal lives,
and the reader is reminded that Chester does not name the animals that he
sells for slaughter because he doesn't want to develop any attachments to
them. The logic of why the animals are kept in their specific situations
is clearly explained, and the reader understands the continual hard work
that a farmer must put in to take care of his animals properly.
The text is unusually long for a picture book, but the friendly,
warm style of writing is captivating, and a child can inspect the
pictures while listening to the story. The description of new life among
the animals and the activities that make them happy are things that
interest children, and Climo has found the right formula. This is a well
Harriet Zaidman is a Winnipeg teacher/librarian.
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