I think it would be hard for anyone to open this book and not be blown away by the art. It is stunning. Unfortunately, one can't consider the art for the Newbery, which if my suspicions are correct that would be precisely why the committee must have chosen this book. You know, to challenge us and stretch our minds and all that jazz.
It was really hard to read this book and not be distracted by the art. However, I expended much effort in order to do so. I found the language to be soothing and evocative (the dirt pops, the clouds bump across the sky) and I heard the practical nature of a farmer often in sentences like, "weather can't be fixed" and how the animals on the farm are described. No anthropomorphism here.
I found the text to be distinguished. It was methodical, but beautiful nonetheless. We begin with an introduction of a farm's important parts. The sum of those parts make the farm (which is presented with small pictures and then a large spread of the farm. which I am totally ignoring at this point. ahem.). Weather is discussed, the work, the small town living, the change of the seasons and how important they are.
Could this text exist without the support of the art? Probably. Would it be as powerful? Not a chance. For me the text and the imagery are totally complementary and almost inseparable. Well, ok, you could seperate them, but why why why would you ever want to? Those pictures, the watercolor and pencil, they are the perfect balance between dreamy and unfocused and somehow still representative and realistic. They are perfection.
So as much as I love this book, I think it is better suited to a Caldecott than a Newbery.
Visit the Farm on Seven Imp.
For those who are keeping track, I'm reading this for our Mock Newbery.
Other titles in this series:
Keeper by Kathy Appelt
The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia
Book Source = Library Copy