Move aside Wilbur and Babe. There’s a new farmyard hero in town, and she has no desire to end up hamburger.
Audrey isn’t like the other cows. They might accept their lot as “food cows,” but she has other ideas. After her mother is taken away to a slaughterhouse, the feisty Charolais concocts an elaborate escape for herself using the expertise and help of her barnyard friends. However, the escape itself proves to be only half the battle, and Audrey’s experiences in the wild forest with its unpredictable denizens put both brains and moxie to the test. In a multiple-perspective, documentary-like format, each animal tells its part of the story with terrific humor and personality. From pompous Charlton the rooster, who considers his role in the story a moment of deus ex machina (“as the Romans would call it”), to a parliament of consensus-minded sheep to a thoroughly prejudiced squirrel, the many voices make the book an ideal read-aloud for a classroom and ideal fodder for readers’ theater. Bar-el is also unafraid to engage in truly lovely descriptive writing (one cow’s grief over losing her son is said to be akin to “a mist like we’d get on gray, foggy mornings that made the farm seem as if it were fading away along its edges”).
Part Great Escape, part Hatchet, part Charlotte’s Web, all wonderful. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)