Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Farmer and the Clown

by Marla Frazee


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The Farmer and the Clown

by Marla Frazee

Review posted February 21, 2015.
Beach Lane Books, New York, 2014. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Picture Books

More than any other, this was the book I was sad to see not represented when the Caldecott Award and Honors were mentioned. I didn't read it until after 2015 had begun, or I'm sure it would have been a 2014 Sonderbooks Stand-out. (Now it has to wait for the 2015 Stand-outs.)

I'm already a huge fan of Marla Frazee's art. I became so by reading the Clementine books. You can see her distinctive style in these pages, especially the adorably round kid faces.

This is a wordless picture book. It tells a simple story, but one bursting with life.

An old-fashioned farmer is working in his flat, brown fields, when he sees a circus train go by. Then a small clown child falls off the train. The farmer goes to him and takes him home. The two spend a night and day together before the train comes back. In the process, they become friends. And the way the artist shows that friendship developing is where this book is a work of genius.

Parents who are all about their children practicing reading may not realize how much a wordless picture book can do. They even work wonderfully for storytime. You can ask children what is happening, and you will be amazed at the things they notice and the vocabulary they use to describe it.

What's more, children who haven't yet learned to decode letters will be delighted to be able to read this book. And they will learn the sequencing of a book, going from left to right and from front to back. Even for older children, who have mastered reading, this book has so much to offer.

But aside from all that, I challenge anyone to read this book and not be delighted by the story of this unlikely pair and their budding friendship. (I especially like where the little clown tries to teach the farmer to juggle eggs. And the farmer waking the little one up with silly antics.)