CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 18 . . . . May 11, 2001
I went to the farm one summer day.Nobody wants to play. It's a dilemma all too familiar to preschoolers who have matchless energy, even on a lazy summer's day. What's a kid to do when even the animals won't play? In I Went to the Farm, an energetic boy -- left nameless, perhaps to represent Every Kid -- creates his own fun. With the help of another little kid just like him and his own imagination, he triggers a playfest unlike anything the farm has seen before.
Ruth Miller's second book is an uncomplicated one, best suited to the youngest of the publisher's targeted range of 2-6 years. The plot is straightforward, with the time and place set early and explicitly, the words kept basic. A simple rhyme scheme sets up an implacable rhythm which nonetheless provides breaks for exploring the illustrations.
Graphic designer and illustrator Per-Henrik Gürth has done his part well, lifting the burden of too much telling from the text. While his pictures are simply drawn in keeping with the text, much transpires within the boxes on each page and spread. Plenty of movement follows the progress of the story, especially once the animals join in the fun. Adding to the lively mood, his lines are freely drawn, the colouring carefree and sunny. Bright blues and glowing oranges and browns, reminiscent of the season, warm the book throughout, extending even to the jacket and end papers. Watercolours allow just enough shading to add depth without undue complexity.
The energy evident in the illustrations certainly has the requisite appeal for older kids -- but will the straightforward story hold their interest? Although Miller has found the perfect pace for preschoolers, who can safely meander without losing track of the story, she may have forfeited the suspense needed to engage older children. The farm setting, too, has unexploited potential. More than animals are needed to hook older kids still keen on learning new things. Perhaps the only real failing is in the promotion. Taught early and well by committed parents, today's five- and six-year-olds seem far too sophisticated for this book.
Recommended with Reservations.
Cora Lee, a Vancouver writer and editor, is the BC regional officer for the Canadian Children's Book Centre.
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