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HARVEST HOME by Jane Yolen


by Jane Yolen & illustrated by Greg Shed

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-15-201819-0
Publisher: Harcourt

Yolen (Girl in a Cage, above, etc.) focuses on family, tradition, and the fruit of the earth in her latest effort, illustrated in golden tones by Shed (I Loved You Before You Were Born, not reviewed, etc.). Written in the voice of the girl narrator, the rhythmic chant begins: “Three months just past, I helped to sow, / Bringing the harvest home, / I planted wheat in every row, / Bringing the harvest home. / Each tiny grain was set in earth / To give the wheat a wholesome berth./ A summer’s coin, a year’s full worth, / Bringing the harvest home.” Throughout, Shed’s luminous full-bleed portraits, rendered in gouache and gently textured with the grain of canvas and brush, stretch across each double-paged spread, abutting text set against a panel the color of sweet butter. Shed captures Bess, brother Ned, mother, father, and others as they work the field. One stunning portrait, for example, pictures Bess bearing a load of wheat in her arms while her mother and sister work in the distance (“Two rows behind work Ma and Jen, / Bringing the harvest home. / They cut more quickly than the men, / Bringing the harvest home”). Shed’s elegant, yet earthy, portraiture and Yolen’s dignified language combine to transcendent effect; although the costumes (straw hats, plain pants held up by suspenders, and simple cotton dresses) might seem to indicate a different era, the work could just as easily be set in modern Pennsylvania Dutch country. Back matter contains an author’s note; in it, Yolen explains that the verse is based on traditional harvest songs, which are characterized by an evolving narrative followed by a repeated chorus. Instructions for making a harvest doll are also included. (Picture book. 5-8)