I wrote recently about how you know at first glance sometimes that a picture book might be special. Well, in some cases, you don’t even need the glance: when you’re already familiar with the author’s work. My first exposure to writer-illustrator Elisha Cooper’s work was his lovely 2006 picture book Beach, which takes the reader through a full day by the shore. Somehow managing to be macro (evoking the feel of a lazy beach day) and micro (including pinpoint details like sandy toes and beach balls floating away) all at once, the book was a revelation to me—at only two years in to parenthood, I hadn’t yet discovered the joys of the contemplative children’s picture book at the time.
So when I saw that Cooper had come out with a new book earlier this year, Farm, I was eager to see what he’d done with another subject. The look and feel here are similar to that of Beach: calm, reflective text accompanying beautifully clean watercolors, which in this case portray a full year in the life of a typical American farm. As in his earlier work (which does in fact long predate Beach, my earlier ignorance notwithstanding), Cooper matches the quiet charm of his illustrations with the placidity of his simple, to-the-point sentences, which often have the feel of a children’s book by Ernest Hemingway: “It starts to rain. The tractor stops again. March is a mud month and weather must be dry for tilling. The farmer will have to wait. Weather can’t be fixed.”
Again, the author proves expert at both detail—the names and character traits of the individual cats who live on the farm, say—and the big picture, so to speak: the seasons changing, and the world of the farm passing from one to the next in sequence. This all makes the book good as a bedtime read, certainly, but even better for a child to leaf through slowly at his or her own pace and leisure. (That’s pretty much what an adult will want to do with the book, too.)
And since he’s more than delivered on the promise of his previous work here, I’ll look forward to Cooper’s next picture book even more eagerly. Happily, I see it’s not that far off now.
Photos: Whitney Webster
From You Know, For Kids