A careful catalog of thoughts about living in the country.
Author/illustrator Stead tells readers he used to live in the city but now lives in the country, and this picture book is a somewhat free-association observation of that life. Nostalgic reminiscences tell readers of his “Grandma Jane,” who gave him Frederick, a stuffed bear he still has, knitted a blanket decorated with chickens, and, Stead says, would be a hummingbird if she had been an animal (a handy device for the illustrations). These thinly form the connective tissue of the rest of the narrative, as Stead shares his observations of the nature outside his door. Deer eat apples (his dog, Wednesday, chases them away), cranes rattle, an eagle drops a turtle, chipmunks live in a stump, and a coyote howls. The story’s problem is not its construction—which is careful—and certainly any attention paid to the natural world is time well spent for young readers. But nostalgia is not something many picture-book readers generally engage in, nor is neutral observation, so it’s difficult to see how effectively readers will connect. The illustrations are well-drawn and well-designed, but they are executed with a loose, sketchy technique and a thin, pale palette that, paired with the narrative’s delicate style, dilute rather than strengthen the story’s overall construction.
More of an artist’s sketchbook musings than a story for children. (Picture book. 5-9)