Category Archives: farm life

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

By Alice and Martin Provensen. Aladdin Books, 2001

Who lives at Maple HIll Farm? People live here. Two dogs and five horses live here. A pig lives here. Then there are — some geese, lots of chickens, a few cows, a few goats, several sheep, and four special cats…

I can’t imagine a better picture book for any animal-loving kid. On each page are illustrations of the dogs, horses, pigs, cats, chickens and goats who live (or used to live) on the author’s real Straatsburg, NY farm, followed by verbal snapshots of their unique personalities. For instance, the big rooster, aptly named Big Shot, doesn’t like children. Willow the cat “is very beautiful, but not very interesting.” And Whiney the sheep is always lost and never knows where the gate is. My kids can look at these gorgeous, simple drawings forever. We’ve decided we all want to live at Maple Hill Farm.

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The Little House

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By Virginia Lee Burton

Houghton Mifflin Books, 1942

Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country. She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built. The Little House was very happy as she sat on the hill and watched the countryside around her. 

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One Hen

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Written by Kate Smith Milway, Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

Kids Can Press, 2008

Kojo and his mother live in a village in the Ashanti region of Ghana. None of the twenty families in the village have much money, but they do have a good idea. Each family promises to save a bit of money so that one family can borrow all the savings to buy something important.

My son snatched this off a shelf just as our library was closing yesterday.  It’s the story, to quote the front flap, of “how changes happen in the world, one person, one family, one community at a time.” A book about microfinance? Obviously, this could have been ridiculously pedagogical. Happily, it’s not.  One Hen is based on the story of Kwabena Darko, a real boy from Ghana who lost his father at an early age and  began taking care of hens to help his mother support their family.  When he became a successful poultry farmer, he founded Sinapi Aba (Mustard Seed) Trust, and in 2006 alone, gave out small loans to over 50,000 Ghanians. Cool, right?  The vivid illustrations have a dreamy quality which complement Milway’s matter-of-fact, yet still poetic prose.

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The Year at Maple Hill Farm

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By Alice and Martin Provensen

Aladdin Paperbacks, 1978

In summer the fields are full of flowers. Goats and sheep like flowers. Bees like flowers. Everyone likes flowers…In summer the grass is hopping with fleas. No one likes fleas. They bite.

As the preface promises: This is a book about farm animals and what happens during one year on a farm. Alice Provensen and her late husband, Martin, took a steady look around their Straatsburg, NY farm, and chronicled what they saw each month. The illustrations — sometimes as many as seven on a page — have an intimate, unhurried feel to them, something you’d expect to find your art major college roommate doodling in a notebook when she should be taking notes.  And the text is full of joyful observations like so: Almost asleep in a puddle of dust, a dog will still wag his tail as you walk by. A bonus: you’ll learn how to pill a sheep.

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