Review of A Home in the Barn

A Home in the Barn
by Margaret Wise Brown; illus. by Jerry Pinkney
Preschool, Primary    Harper/HarperCollins    32 pp.
9/18    978-0-06-623787-9    $17.99

This cozy (previously unpublished) story from the late, legendary Margaret Wise Brown opens and closes with the same playful rhyme: “Here is the barn / Hear the wind rattle / Open the door / And see all the cattle.” Winter is approaching, and it’s time for all the animals on the farm to move into the “big warm barn.” Brown’s evocative text includes the sights, sounds, and textures of the farmyard both inside and outside the barn — the horses’ breath in the cold air, swallows chirping in the barn rafters, and a calf’s “silky little curly coat.” The focus is on the animals (field mice, horses, birds, bats, cows, and more) — and hand-lettered text occasionally mimics their sounds — but we do briefly see the farmer and his son. Many of the perspectives in the earth-toned, full-bleed double-page spreads are tightly framed, as if Pinkney is inviting us to step into the barn for a close-up look. (In an appended note, the artist writes that his lush and textured illustrations were inspired by three particular paintings: The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks, Haystack in the Snow by Grant Wood, and Young Bull by Andrew Wyeth.) In two closing spreads, we see the animals huddled together in the barn, Pinkney’s illustrations creating an atmosphere of warmth and tranquility, making this a particularly good bedtime read. All the animals are safe, snug, and ready for sleep, even as the wind howls outside in the snow (“WHOOOO”).

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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