Review of Prairie Days

Prairie Days
by Patricia MacLachlan; illus. by Micha Archer
Primary    McElderry    40 pp.
5/20    978-1-4424-4191-0    $17.99

In this nostalgic idyll set on the American prairie (judging by clues in the illustrations, in the mid-twentieth-century), a young girl describes summertime farm life as she and the other children ride horses, take a trip into town for penny candy, swim in a pond, and play kick-the-can until adults call them inside at bedtime. MacLachlan immerses readers into the girl’s sensory experiences: “Where I was born, there was a sky so big, there was no end of it…the earth smelled of cattle and bluegrass and hyssop.” Archer’s illustrations lean into the text’s idealized depiction of time and place (surely not all the farm smells were sweet, for instance), offering spread after spread of breathtakingly gorgeous scenes. Collages made from a “combination of acrylics, ink, and textured papers” that were created with “origami and tissue papers and homemade stamps” capture the nearness of the sky, the flat expanse of the landscape, the colors of the prairie. Golds, blues, and greens predominate, with the reds of barns or filling-station pumps and the pinks of sunrise and wild roses adding contrast. Viewers will linger on the pond spread, in which two children float on their backs inside concentric circles of ripples; or on a spread in which prairie dogs sit by their holes in the foreground as a train passes on the horizon, the grasses turned blue-green in the dimming light of the setting sun.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is a contributing editor to The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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