Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2010
Farm takes readers from early spring through to late autumn on a modern family farm. Although it is strictly speaking a fictional picture book, Farm reads much like nonfiction with it's descriptive chronological text. At the end, I felt as if I had watched a months-long, time-lapse film of the farm.
Cooper's text, while concise, results in a very atmospheric book. Phrases like "even the clouds seem to make sound as they bump across the sky"* and "to the south are more cornfields, which smell sort of buttery" permeate the book with evocative details of farm life. It is these details, the minutiae of farm life from squeaking corn to the smell of the barn, that made me feel as if I had been there. Despite the detail the text manages to show the reader instead of telling them, leaving me to fill in blanks.
The use of white space in the watercolour illustrations also reflect this sense of filling in blanks. From the farm animals to the children doing chores, all are illustrated with a stark white background, and without much detail except for some animal close-ups. The feeling of wide open spaces is tangible when Cooper shows panoramas of the farm, which are dominated by the sky filling the vast majority of the page.
A subtle humour is at play as well, which I enjoyed: describing the lazy activities of the month of June, "Bear [the cat] plays with a snake then eats it (some animals enjoy June more than others)." A bit dark? Sure. But the cycle of life is alluded to every so often in Farm, and rightly so.
This is a poetic and evocative book about the day-to-day, season-to-season life on a family farm. Lovely.
*I would provide page numbers for quotes but the book is not paginated.