These two dozen short stories for children portray the adventures of spiders, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals.
The one-page tales collected in this debut book often have little dialogue, sounding as if they are straight from a grandparent’s mouth. Several stories are about finding someone who is lost. In the opening piece, “Booboo Helps Ziffy,” a baby pig named Ziffy wakes up and discovers his mother is gone, causing him to cry. Visiting spiders decide to help; one, named Booboo, sees the adult pigs from the barn roof and tells Ziffy. He rouses “all the other baby pigs” and runs for his mother. “The mother pigs were happy to see their babies. Ziffy was back with his mother,” concludes the tale. Other stories follow similar lines. In “Bill Helps Fluffy,” for example, sympathetic spiders enlist a bird named Bill to help a crying kitten, Fluffy, to locate her mother. In “The Geese Helped Gertrude,” Farmer Arnold’s geese honk to let him know that Gertrude, a brown hen, is outside in the cold; in “Where is Blackie?,” the farmer’s dog Popeye tracks down a lost boar, Blackie. Whether on the theme of searching for animals or not, all the tales are very simple. A colt experiences rain; a chicken decides to drink milk as cats do; animals cavort in puddles. A few counting stories are included, but go no higher than six (“Counting the Farm Animals”). Despite the barnyard setting, Hulme’s book doesn’t teach much about life on a farm except for the need to stay locatable and warm. But the pieces do have a cozy, comfortable feeling, and with their reassuring sameness could effectively serve as go-to-sleep stories. The uncredited illustrations vary a great deal, from photographs to generic-looking cartoons, some in black and white, some in color. The clip-art style doesn’t help bring the tales to life, and the images don’t always match the stories; for example, “Bill Helps Fluffy” includes a color photo depicting a backyard with two cats who appear to be playing, or play-fighting, and a dog on a porch. Although Fluffy and her mother frolic on a swingset in the tale, none is visible in the photo.
Not much happens in these uncomplicated vignettes about barnyard creatures.