October 7, 2007

Book Review: The Animal Hedge

The Animal Hedge by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline is a very sweet and inspiring story. A man and his three sons live on a farm, but when a drought hits, they need to sell the farm and sharpen tools to earn enough money to eat. The man is very sad, since his passion is in raising animals and he can no longer do this. He soon begins seeing animals in his hedge, and trims baby animals and grows them into adult animals in his hedge. As his sons grow and it becomes time for them to seek a trade, he directs them to the hedge. He chops it down and gives them the task of trimming the new hedge. They each see their own calling in the hedge: one a coachman, one a sailor, one a fiddler. They leave home to pursue their own trades. When they return home, they ask their father how the hedge was able to choose their trades so well. "Slowly they realized that they'd seen in the hedge what lay deep in their hearts and heavy on their minds." They realized that they had also seen what lay on their father's heart. I will not spoil the ending, but it is sweet and touching.
The Russian-born illustrator says, "I was mostly influences by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American folk art." And you can tell. Ibatoulline's illustrations in this book are beautiful! They only add to the original charm of the story. I would read this book if I could only look at the pictures. I felt like I was walking through an art museum (not something I am likely to experience much at this stage in life. ;)
It is a little on the wordy side, but not bad. Too long for Joe, but Emily made it through with a little animal sound pracitce on several pages. Probably for 2 and up, but like I said, it is worth reading even if you have to edit the story and just look at the pictures.
Honestly, Emily prefers My Big Animal Book, but you can only read that one so many times. Plus, it is good to experience quality literature and artwork with our children. Someday, she too will prefer books like The Animal Hedge, but for now reading the book that Mommy wants to read is a perfectly good reason to read a wonderful book.

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