Monthly Archives: March 2013

Themed Third Thursday: Fun on the Farm

BoyChild is rather fond of tractors and farm animals (he and his grandpa have found a common love of the green machines with the yellow, hoofed mascot), and I thought that–so soon after his second birthday!–it would be fun to feature a topic that he likes for a change! (Also, my uncle is retiring from his dairy farm at the end of this month, so I’m waxing a little nostalgic!) Here is a collection of fiction and nonfiction books with a farm theme for the very youngest readers up through middle school.

Spot Goes to the Farm, by Eric Hill (1987, reissued 2003): In this classic lift-the-flap book in the Spot series, Spot and his dad visit a farm to meet the new babies. Little readers learn the names of baby animals as they lift the flaps. A basic book for toddlers.

Moo Moo, Brown Cow, by Jakki Wood, illustrated by Rog Bonner (1991): With predictable repetition and animal noises, the kitty asks each animal if they have any babies (using the appropriate term for each), and they respond affirmatively with a number that grows by one with each asking. Concepts addressed in this board book are animal noises, animal baby names, colors, and counting!

Barnyard Dance!, by Sandra Boynton (1993): “Stomp your feet! Clap your hands! Everybody ready for a barnyard dance!” This is a square dance in board book format, and the animals do-si-do all over the barnyard. Written in Boynton’s standard silly rhyming style, this is a perfect farm book for a toddler or preschool Boyton lover! (Hear the audio version on the Philadelphia Chickens cd!)

Moo, by Matthew VanFleet, pictures by Brian Stanton (2011): The duo that brought you Dog now presents a farm theme! With the same fun rhymes and interactivity, young readers are introduced to proper farm animal names (calf, cow, and bull, for instance), animal sounds, and other related words and actions (like wallowing for the pigs and milking the cow). We don’t own this one yet, but, because of how much both BoyChild and GirlChild love Van Fleet’s other books, it’s on our list!

Tractor Day, by Candice F. Ransom, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant (2007): A little girl joins her daddy for farm chores using the tractor in a book that shows the day from beginning to end. Simple four-line stanzas in an ABCB rhyming pattern describe what is happening on each page. A trio of crows shows up on each spread except for the very last page…where the little girl has a black feather on her nightstand as she sleeps.

Farm Animals (DK Readers), by DK Publishing (2004): This pre-reader level book is meant to be shared with preschoolers who are learning to read and like to follow along. Each spread features a simple sentence, photograph of an animal with its babies, and labels for the animals.

Farm Tractors, by Kristen L. Nelson (2003): This book has all the features of  typical nonfiction and is written at an early reader level, so it is suitable for use with early elementary independent readers. Each page has a photograph of farm machinery or other farm features and one or two simple sentences of text about tractors and their uses on a farm. Preschoolers with an interest in tractors may also enjoy this as a read-aloud.

Senses on the Farm, by Shelley Rotner (2009): Each page has a photograph of a scene on a farm and a basic imperative sentence relating to one of the five senses, such as “Taste the farm-fresh milk.” Good for including a lesson on the senses in a farm themed unit.

The Cow Who Clucked, by Denise Fleming (2006): When Cow loses her moo, she (accompanied by the Chicks of Foreshadowing) sets off across the farm to find out who has it. As she meets each animal, she clucks a greeting, is answered with the appropriate animal sound (except the odd inclusion of “warf” for the dog), and concludes that the animal does not have her moo. At the end of the day, she returns exhausted to the barn and almost ignores Hen…who moos.

Tough Chicks, by Cece Meng, illustrated by Melissa Suber (2009): Penny, Polly, and Molly are no ordinary chicks. While every animal on the farm (and even the farmer!) admonish their mother to make them be good, she knows that they are good…and smart…and tough! When something goes wrong with the tractor and it’s on a collision course with the henhouse, the quick-thinking, quick-moving, tough chicks pop in to solve the problem fast! A very cute story with cute illustrations…and the important message that it’s okay to be a tough chick!

Old MacDonald Drives a Tractor, by Don Carter (2007): Although you may be tempted to try to sing this book to the song (adding the appropriate E-I-E-I-Os where needed), don’t! The rhythm will be completely off as you say words like “cultivator” and “harvester” in the same breath as you would say “cow” in the original! Perfect for young farmers and little ones who want to know exactly what that green machine you pass out in the field is called and what it does!

An Edible Alphabet: 26 Reasons to Love the Farm, by Carol Watterson, illustrated by Michaela Sorrentino (2011): Originally published in Canada under the title Alfalfabet A to Z, The Wonderful Words from Agriculture, this book features a plenitude of farm facts for each letter of the alphabet (including the heading “Stink, Stank, Stunk” for S…to discuss manure and decomposition). Each spread has full-color collage art to add to the fun. While the alphabet concept may make this book seem like a title for young readers, the vast amount of information and more sophisticated vocabulary make this either a good book to share with the kindergarten crowd as a read-aloud or for more advanced independent readers, but any elementary age student with an interest in agriculture would enjoy the information (if he or she could get past the idea that alphabet books are only for “little” kids)!

Mary and Her Little Lamb: The True Story of the Famous Nursery Rhyme, by Will Moses (2011): Oil paintings, some full-spread, accent this simple account of the true story of Mary Elizabeth Sawyer of Sudbury, Massachusetts, and the rejected lamb twin she rescued and befriended as a child. The art reveals beautiful images of a New England farm in the early 1800s, and the text describes Mary’s interactions with the farm animals, particularly the unnamed lamb. The nursery rhyme itself (well, the first stanza) was written by John Roulstone, a visitor to the one-room schoolhouse on the day that Mary’s little lamb followed her to school, and was given to Mary because the writer so enjoyed the event. (By the way, the author/illustrator is none other than the grandson of the artist Grandma Moses!) Independent reading for elementary students, this would make an excellent read-aloud for all ages.

Serious Farm, by Tim Egan (2003): Although this farm and its inhabitants are all very serious, I was giggling by the third page with its illustration of the deadly serious animals. Okay, I was laughing on the first page when Farmer Fred said, “Nothing funny about corn.” The animals decide that they need to do something to get some laughter on the farm, and they do increasingly silly things to try to get Farmer Fred to laugh, but nothing works. Finally, they get so discouraged that they decide to leave. When Farmer Fred discovers they are missing, he is sad, and he sets out to find them. Farmer Fred actually chuckles a little when he finds them in the woods and thinks about them “runnin’ wild” out there, and the animals decide that he’s right about them all needing each other, so they go on home to the serious farm where they can sometimes get Farmer Fred to laugh a little…but never about corn. Available for Kindle and used in hardback and paperback.

A Fairy in the Dairy, by Lucy Nolan, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant (2003): Buttermilk Hollow is starting to suffer population loss, and Farmer Blue confides in Pixie, his favorite cow, that he’s worried about the future of the town now that a toothpick factory is wanting to buy up all the farmland, and he thinks the town needs a fairy godmother to sort things out. Then, strange things start happening, and the dairy business starts to flourish despite Mayor Clabber’s efforts to get others to join him in selling out. The fairy in the dairy gives this dairy town another chance. Full of  cheese-themed puns, this book would be good for early elementary age readers and listeners (particularly those who know their cheeses!).

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis, by Robbin Gourley (2000): This is a pseudo-biography  of a year in the life of chef Edna Lewis (1916-2006) as a child on a farm with her family. (It’s a work of fiction, but the real Edna Lewis did grow up on a family farm in Freetown, Virginia!) From springtime to the onset of winter, Edna and her family harvest crops and pick berries and share “garden lore” with one another as they work and dream of what they’ll make with the food they pick. The book also contains some of Edna Lewis’ recipes (modified for modern tastes) at the end. This book would make a great read-aloud for any preschool or elementary age, and early elementary to middle elementary readers would enjoy it independently.

Farm (Eyewitness Books), by Ned Halley (1996): Eyewitness Books contain all the features of a nonfiction book, and they are stuffed full of photographs and illustrations with detailed captions for young readers to explore! The history of farming as well as a variety of different kinds of animal husbandry and crop cultivation are covered. Perfect for interested readers in the early elementary grades for independent reading and for simple reference for all elementary ages.

Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams (1952): A Newbery Honor Book in 1952, this classic farm tale tells the story of Wilbur–the runt pig that farm girl Fern rescues as a piglet–and Charlotte–the benevolent barn spider–and their quest to keep Wilbur safe from slaughter as he grows into “some pig.” The 2006 live action film adaptation features Dakota Fanning as Fern and the voice of Julia Roberts as Charlotte.

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams (1953): Originally published in 1933, this book is a fictionalized account of a year in the life of Almanzo Wilder (husband of the author) on a prosperous farm in upstate New York in the late 1800s. I remember that when my mom read this book aloud to us when we were kids, I was constantly hungry because it seems like all his family ever does is eat! Reading the other Little House books (of which series this is a part), I wonder if her focus on the food and relative wealth of the family is because this part of his life was so very different from the hard times Laura grew up experiencing. The main character turns nine in this book, so reading this book with 3rd-5th graders might give them an idea of how very different life is for nine-year-olds now from how it was then! Then again, I’ve never been a child on a farm (well, not since I was a baby), so I don’t know if modern farm kids are as heavily involved in the work of the farm as they were then, so maybe it would only surprise the “city” kids!

Barn Boot Blues, by Catherine Friend (2011): Taylor’s parents unexpectedly move the family from Minneapolis to a farm outside of Melberg to fulfill her mother’s lifelong dream, and Taylor is anything but happy about it. While she likes a few of the friendlier animals, she misses the mall, her friends, and going to school without evidence of the dirty work of a farm on her somewhere. She also misses her parents since her dad still commutes to the city for work and her mom is busy with the constant work needed on the farm, and things don’t seem to be going very well between them either. Taylor finds a sympathetic friend at school who vows to help her with the TEFF project: Taylor Escapes From Farm. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Taylor is willing to do anything–even sacrifice her reputation at school–to get away from the farm that seems to be ruining all their lives. For upper elementary and middle school readers.

And for a couple things completely different…

Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary, poems written by Maya Gottfried, paintings by Robert Rahway Zakanitch (2010): Beautiful, realistic paintings add visual interest to this collection of a variety of poems in different styles “written” by animals from Farm Sanctuary, a sanctuary in for “neglected and abused farm animals” with farms in California and New York. These are very cute poems for independent reading or sharing with even the youngest of listeners, and the illustrations will hold small listeners’ attention while the poems are being read aloud.

1-2-3 Draw: Pets and Farm Animals, by Freddie Levin (2001): One of the how-to-draw books that gives step-by-step instructions for drawing animals (some more simple than others). For budding elementary aged artists.

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How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday?, by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday?, by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (2011, The Blue Sky Press)

One never would have thought that dinosaurs were a polite bunch, but Jane Yolen and Mark Teague are here to prove one wrong! 😉

Each page in the first half of this board book asks a rhetorical question to introduce what would be considered a bad birthday choice: hogging the cake, touching the food, screaming, grabbing the gifts, and messing around and ruining others’ fun at the party. But, no…a dinosaur wouldn’t do those things! Each page following the examples of poor behaviors describes what a well-behaved birthday dinosaur does, including polite greetings, appreciation for gifts, serving the guests, giving out hand-made favors, and thanking her human parents for making the birthday great.

The illustrations in this series are hilarious, and this book is no exception. The enormous, anthropomorphic dinosaurs interact with the human characters in the book in a completely human setting, and the contrast between the mundane setting and the star characters is sure to get any kid giggling! (Especially funny are the tiny birthday hats perched upon the heads of carnivorous beasts that are behaving like naughty toddlers, but the “You shouldn’t have!” expression on the face of the spike-bottomed kentrosaurus receiving a baby doll for a gift is pretty hysterical, too!) Each dinosaur is also discreetly labeled with its species for the budding paleontologists in our midst.

BoyChild’s Reactions: I don’t think it’s any surprise that BoyChild loves this book. I have no idea what he was actually saying–he’s not the most verbal child on the planet–but he was extremely excited and babbling and pointing at all the pictures. (I’m pretty sure he said “bun” and pointed at the bunny that the last dinosaur is carrying…yay?) Otherwise, I think Dinosaur Roar might be his first language anyway, so he really enjoys reading this book! So, because today is BoyChild’s second birthday, I just wanted to quote the last line of the book and say, “Happy birthday to you, little dinosaur!” We love you!

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The Boy Who Cried Ninja, by Alex Latimer

The Boy Who Cried Ninja, by Alex Latimer (2011, Peachtree Publishers)

Tim is a boy who is hard to believe. The first page reveals that he has told stories about mermaids and unicorns and a free lunch–and everyone knows that there is no such thing! (Seriously, I guffawed out loud on that page!) Tim’s mother doesn’t believe that a ninja ate the last piece of cake. His dad doesn’t believe that an astronaut borrowed his hammer. And his grandfather doesn’t believe that a giant squid ate his whole book bag (including his homework). Tim’s parents sentenced him to hard yard work for his lies. The thing is, Tim wasn’t lying about those things, so he decided he would be better off if he did lie! So he took the blame for a pirate drinking all the tea, the sunburned crocodile that broke the TV antenna, and the time-traveling monkey who threw pencils at his grandfather while he was sleeping. But he still had to do yard work for “all the bad things he’d done”! Tim decided to do something about the misunderstanding and sent invitations to all the guilty parties, inviting them to a celebration at his house on Saturday. His family was certainly surprised to find a ninja, astronaut, giant squid, pirate, crocodile, and time-traveling monkey at their door, and they were certainly sorry that they had accused Tim of lying (to the tune of 100 ice creams’ restitution). They were also pretty upset with the visitors, and they had them “rake all the leaves in the yard and think about what [they’d] done.” And afterward, they had a party, and no one did anything naughty.

The illustrations were “created as pencil drawings, digitized, then finished with color and texture.” Because of both the style and the way they convey much of the story, the illustrations have a definite graphic novel feel (but without the framing most graphic novels use). There are many little touches that will make the adult or older child reader laugh, such as the framed memento labeled “Grampa’s Moustache” and the tiny piles of steaming poo placed surreptitiously among the images of leaves to rake when the parents were punishing the interlopers. (Their dejected little silhouettes in the latter image are also pretty funny!) Almost every time you read this book, you’ll notice something new. This was the author’s first book for children, and he totally nailed it for a young audience with a quirky sense of humor!

GirlChild’s Reactions: This book was more for the grown-up readers in this house than for my preschooler, but GirlChild still enjoyed it! Both ResidentAunt and I cackled merrily at several things as we each read it to GirlChild, and I have noticed more funny details in the art every time I’ve read it. (Um, to GirlChild. Yeah. Not just to myself.) I can tell that each of us (Daddy included!) has read this to her more than once because she is able to quote lines and read the speech bubbles in the art that I sometimes skip. She says she likes the party the best because of all the fun things they’re doing; a savvier reader would be catching and enjoying more of the humor. When I asked her what she learned from this book, she said she learned not to lie. When I asked her what she thinks Mommy learned from this book, she said that I learned that I should believe her. Now, if only that weren’t so hard sometimes…! Recommended for quirky elementary readers for best effect.

Additional titles:

(just came out in February 2013)

(due out in August 2013–available for preorder)

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