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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Rooster Summer, written by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Madeline Kloepper. Groundwood Books, 2018. $16.95 ages 7 and up

"Some cooler days
we do attic play,
where trunks, boxes, corners
are full of come what may.
We love the old clothes,
toss them on any which way
and play, play, play -
school, storybook people,
tough-talking city folk,
fancy-pants rich guys,
hoity-toity dancers at a ball.
This we like best of all."

It was such fun to read this book, and to remember events from my past. My brother and I spent time with family on their prairie farm for a few weeks during the summers from ages nine to thirteen or so. He loved being on the land and getting dirty; I loved being at the lake. Before we could go, the work had to be done. So, we picked vegetables, helped pack a picnic and would head off for the afternoon with my aunt.

Robert Heidbreder shares memories from his childhood in poetry about a pair of siblings who are spending the summer on their grandparents' farm. Each of their little excursions include the companionship of four very special animals - Rexter is a rooster, Seed-Sack is a mule, Tuffin is a cat, and Ginger-Tea is a replacement dog for the one that has just died.

Farm life proves to be an enjoyable time even though there is daily work to be done. They gather eggs, then entertain train passengers as the train slowly makes its way to the city.

"City folks on the go
need a barnyard show,"
Grandpa says.
In a rag-tag line
we shuffle back,
singing high and low.
"City folks on the go
need a barnyard show!"

Imagine the stories those people have to share when they get back to the city.

The garden abounds with colorful delight, and waiting for the watermelons to ripen seems endless. Playing in the barn offers new adventure and a chance to make friends with its feline residents. Tuffin is one of them, and they do their best to make her comfortable with their presence. Dusk and its approaching darkness offer a chance to see a myriad of stars, something children rarely see in the city. Splashing in the creek, running from a coming storm, and discovering a quiet hen yard after a fox has visited are all a part of their summer life at the farm.

"We get hammers, nails, wood,
and work to make it strong and good.
"Foxes, they gotta eat too, I guess,"
Grandma whispers,
a little sad, we think.

Life in the barnyard can sometimes be hard."

Those who read this book with very much enjoy the many adventures, and will be pleased to meet and get to know both Rexter and Seed-Sack. They play a lively role in many of the day's events.  The book is perfect for reading aloud, and for discussing character development as each of the poems is shared. Madeline Kloepper's pastoral artwork is created using inks, gouache, graphite and digital technique. Using shades of brown, orange and yellow she evokes the warmth of a farm summer and add context for the memories shared here.

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