Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Windy Farm - Doug McLeod and Craig Smith

When your family lives on the windiest farm on Windy Hill, because it’s all they can afford, life can be tricky. Everyone except Grandpa is in constant danger of blowing away. Even the pigs. But inventor Mum comes up with a solution that sees everybody– chooks and all – fitted out with heavy metal shoes. But on the day that half the house blows away – even though Grandpa says, ‘Never mind’ – something must be done. When rich Uncle Jeff, who has an oil well in his back yard next to the clothes line, says, ‘it’s your silly fault for buying such a windy farm’ and refuses to help, a bit of ingenuity and Grandpa’s power tools save the day. Until the power bill arrives. It’s a sad day when the family must sell off Big Betty, Grandpa’s favourite pig. But Mum has an environmentally inspired idea that turns the tide on the family’s fortunes – by turning plenty of windmill blades. Big Betty comes home and everyone lives happily ever after. Except for Uncle Jeff, who gets blown away. ‘Never mind,’ says Grandpa.

It is always a thrill to open a new Doug MacLeod and Craig Smith collaboration and The Windy Farm provides no exception. Let’s hope they keep them coming. The text and spirited illustrations are immediately appealing; the simple storyline, infused with whimsy and humour, effectively sets the stage for Smith’s illustrations, which – as always – breathe vitality, pith and energy into the story. The title is clever and the story about how a family harnesses the power of the wind employs a gentle subtextual teaching element for its young audience without being prescriptive. There is plenty of detail in the illustrations – crafted in gouache and acrylic, and gloriously waggish – to provide a child new discoveries on subsequent returns. They will love, for instance, the page where the house nearly blows away: a bra and underpants go sailing past; the photos fly off the fridge; the moon shines from inside the window while bats are shaken from their sleep in the roof; then Grandpa’s look of surprise as the door swings open to reveal him sitting on the dunny. A delightfully playful book with an environmental edge.
Penguin 2013

(A version of this review appears in Magpies Vol 28, Issue 1, March 2013)

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