Garland's (the Miss Smith series) nostalgic tale first sounds a melancholy note, as Grandpa drives Timmy to see Grandpa's childhood home, a dilapidated farmhouse beside a ramshackle barn, incongruously situated at the edge of a sterile housing development. Explaining that this was once "a beautiful place... just open fields and pastures for the cows," Grandpa shows Timmy a cherished childhood relic: the grandparent's father's rusted tractor, which now has saplings sprouting from the engine. Grandpa's tone brightens as the story leaps back to a time when his father drove the shiny red tractor to perform important jobs throughout the seasons--with a young Grandpa along for the ride. Dominated by bright reds, golds, and greens, Garland's glossy digital art lets the tractor pop from the page. The illustrations underscore the dramatic changes between the past and present landscapes, while conveying a reassuring sense of continuity: aged Grandpa looks much like his father, Timmy strongly resembles young Grandpa, and the affection between both pairs is palpable. However, the abrupt ending ("I never knew tractors were so important," says Timmy) is a letdown. Ages 2-6. (Apr.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
PreS-Gr 2--Garland's artistic genius has never been shown to such advantage as in this book. Grandpa Joe and Timmy drive together to the site of the farm, now abandoned, where the man spent his childhood. The farmhouse is boarded up, and the barn has collapsed; they stand forlornly at the edge of a housing development. Out in the weeds rests a rusty tractor. This dispiriting discovery is leavened by a series of reminiscences about life on a working farm and the many ways in which the now-useless machine was the focus of an average day. "When I was your age, my dad let me sit on his lap and steer the tractor as we plowed the fields"; "In the fall, my father would hitch a wagon onto the back and ride the whole family up to the orchard to pick apples"; "In the winter, we would hook a sled to the tractor and haul firewood to heat the house." Each memory floats atop a spread of extraordinarily lovely, bucolic scenery: woods and fields, chickens and cows, apple trees, fresh vegetables, snow-silvered branches, and always the shiny red tractor. As Timmy listens, he is imagining and coming to respect the tractor and the way of life it represents. The text--occasionally awkward but nicely descriptive--complements the vivid and folksy digitally enhanced artwork. None of these illustrations would be out of place in a fine-arts gallery, and any one of them would be reason enough to own the book. But the pictures and text together compose a loving tribute to the heyday of small farms in America, a time and place that should not be forgotten.--Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY[Page 76]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.