New York Times Sunday Book Review
Ever since “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” with its irritating propensity to ring in parents’ ears long after its 4-year-old targets have ceased oinking, the combination of children’s books and farmyard animals somehow inevitably invites song. Two catchy new picture books for very young readers sustain that tradition. “Farmyard Beat,” written by Lindsey Craig and illustrated in cut-out collage by Marc Brown (the pair behind “Dancing Feet!”), could be one of those books that’ve been kicking around preschool classrooms for ages. The corrugated cardboard backdrops look like something glued together by a pair of especially crafty moms at the local co-op, and the text (lyrics, really) seems like a familiar song one has already heard in off-key unison. None of that takes away from the book's considerable appeal. From the “Peep-peep-peep!” of a yellow chick peering out of its egg on the first page, through the inevitable chiming-in of an entire farm’s worth of animals, to the book’s conclusion with animals piled up in an exhausted, snoring heap, “Farmyard Beat” jauntily pulls readers along. Toddlers will need zero encouragement to participate.
By PAMELA PAUL Published: June 22, 2011 www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/books/review/childrens-books-farmyard-beat-and-moo-mo...Kirkus Review (May 15, 2011)
When the sun goes down, the farmyard animals are supposed to go to sleep. But wait: “Chicks can’t sleep. Chicks can’t sleep. / Chicks can’t sleep / ’cause they got the beat!”
The sheep, cat, cow and dog can’t sleep either because they’ve got the beat, too. Here comes Farmer Sue, and she can’t sleep either, so everyone dances to the beat, “T-I-L-L… / … they fall in a heap! / Asleep!” The collage art (hand-painted on corrugated-looking and other found papers) is similar to the duo’s Dancing Feet! (2010) and a total departure from Brown’s style in his Arthur books. The jazzed-up animals are shaped with textured cut-out pieces that form the assemblage, which pops against the black-and-purple striped backgrounds. Colors are largely those found in nature, though judicious use of pinks on noses, tongues and the insides of ears keep the figures from looking anything but dull; they definitely have child appeal. The story ends with the rooster (a spectacle in blue, lavender and crimson) crowing, "Cock-a-doodle-doo! / I've got the beat!"
It won't take but one or two readings before kids join right in with the syncopated fun. (Picture book. 3-6)
kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/childrens-books/lindsey-craig/farmyard-beat/Publishers Weekly Children's Review
Craig and Brown are again in playful sync in this rhythmic companion to Dancing Feet! (2010). Reviving the cut-paper collage style he debuted in that book, Brown demonstrates that he's mastered the medium. Hand-painted papers cut into basic geometric shapes create animals and scenes composed of a boldly contrasting amalgam of textures and patterns; his palette incorporates soft pastels, earth tones, and primary colors set against deeply hued, striped backdrops. Using bouncy repetition, Craig explains that farm animals are too busy dancing to sleep: "Chicks can't sleep./ Chicks can't sleep./ Chicks can't sleep 'cause they got that beat!" Each species has its own beat and rhyme scheme, which usually relates to the sound the animal makes, and also leads into whatever animal is next seen busting a move ("Puuurrrr! Mee-ooow!/ Puuurrrr! Mee-ooow!/ All that racket wakes up... Cow!"). Although all the animals (as well as pigtailed Farmer Sue, who comes out to investigate all the noise) eventually "fall in a heap! Asleep!" the emphasis rests squarely on the joy of exuberant, slightly mischievous dancing. A calming bedtime book this is not. Ages 1–4
About the Author
LINDSEY CRAIG lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, with her family. Her first book, Dancing Feet!, is also available from Knopf.
MARC BROWN is the creator of Arthur, the star of many picture books and a six-time Emmy Award-winning PBS TV show. He is also the illustrator of the New York Times bestselllers Wild About Books
and Born to Read
by Judy Sierra as well as Buying, Training, & Caring for Your Dinosaur
by Laura Rennert.