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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Farm, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper. Orchard, Scholastic, 2010. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"Fields lie underneath the farm. The fields are flat,
stretching as far as the eye can see. There are no hills.
Clouds race overhead, almost touching the fields below.
Early in the spring, the fields are bare dirt. A tractor rumbles back and forth."

I have always loved the books that Elisha Cooper creates for us. In an interview, he told readers that he grew up on a small farm in New England, with an apple orchard and goats that needed milking each day...a pastoral, idyllic place where a farm family lived its life at one with the seasons. In writing this book for children he wanted to give them access to that kind of farm.

He introduces us first to the family and then adds those things that make up the small farming enterprise that he wants us to know. In a double page spread he shows us the farm I know that is familiar to me...a prairie landscape with buildings, flat fields and another similar farm in the distance. As spring arrives, the farmer begins his work and Cooper draws those varied elements in a series of watercolor spot pictures that take us from tilling, to break down, to a rain storm...all part of the job that is family farming at the beginning of another year. He moves us through the seasons, describing the work, play, weather, animals, events and pleasures that come with a job well done.

Joyful in its rendering of a 'year in the life', Elisha Cooper has gentled me into memories of summer vacations spent in Saskatchewan with those who worked to make a living on a 'family farm'. I trust that was his intention, and so much more. Kids will enjoy poring over the illustrations that include so much, with added touches of humor, grace and warmth.

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