Maya the cow, J.D. the piglet, Hilda the sheep, and a dozen more animals all speak directly to the reader, showing off their unique personalities in this wonderful collection of poems. Master watercolorist Robert Rahway Zakanitch provides a portrait that perfectly captures the essence of each creature. Together the poems and paintings add up to a picture of life on the friendliest farm around.
Maya Gottfried based her poems on real animals from Farm Sanctuary, a safe haven for injured or abused farm animals with locations in New York and California.
The inhabitants of a real-life refuge for abused farm animals inspired this collection of poems and watercolor portraits. Zakanitch (who collaborated with Gottfried on Good Dog and Last Night I Dreamed a Circus) captures his subjects in a variety of moods and modes. There are almost formal poses (the florid, impressionistic poultry are noteworthy), more impressionistic works (turkeys distilled to red wattles and reverse-silhouetted bodies against a green field); and casual, occasionally naïf-styled sketches, complete with sound effects like “oink” and “cluck.” It’s aesthetically intriguing and fun—readers are never quite sure what awaits on the next page. Gottfried fares less well: her conceit is that the free verse is written by the animals themselves, as in this poem by a turkey named Whisper: “See our magnificent dance in the grass./ We are so graceful, like a ballet class.” But aside from some familiar animal personality tropes (a sheep is imperious, chicks are giddy, rabbits are skittish), there’s little in the verse that conveys a unique voice or experience. Instead, the poems feel like they’re all cut from the same dreamy, earnest cloth. Ages 5–8. (Feb.)